Google Voice: Asleep at the Switch

Google Voice: Asleep at the Switch

By Dave Michels May 16, 2013 3 Comments
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Google Voice: Asleep at the Switch by Dave Michels

I was an early champion of Google Voice, how early? I was using Grand Central before Google bought them. I felt the concept really had legs. I wrote several posts soon after Google launched Google Voice bullish in nature on how Internet disruption finally came to voice.

Over the past few years, I’ve changed my tune. I came to realize that Google didn’t have interest in Google Voice and the service languishes within the Googleplex. UC vendors don’t need to fear Google, but rather figure out how to leverage it.

Yesterday, Google updated its messaging platform, now called Google Hangouts. The new version of Hangouts is a separate application for Android, iOS, and also offers a web interface. Hangouts will also replace Google Talk and G+ Messenger. It also confirms just how dead Google Voice is. Also note: both of the product leaders that Google acquired when it bought GrandCentral have left Google. There has been relatively no news from Google Voice. Personally, I think the service has taken a significant turn for the worse.

The new Hangouts supports IM/presence, video chat, and photos. What’s notably missing is voice, SMS, and messaging. These are the core features of Google Voice. Hangouts was arguably one of the biggest announcements at the Google IO conference – and somehow Google forgot to include Google Voice in the new solution?

Hangouts offers some nice features including: free multi-user conferencing (up to 10 people - free), persistent conversations (even if you change devices), elimination of duplicate notifications, and the ability to start/stop conversations that move across devices. It would be a great UC solution if it could deal with voice and messaging.

Google positions its new Hangouts application as cross platform, however, it doesn’t quite live up to that. Without VoIP, SMS, and messaging it is just another consumer app not ready for prime (enterprise) time. Nor does it offer support for Windows Phone or Blackberry devices.

Currently, the best enterprise vendors in position to leverage this are AVST and Esna. They both support Google Apps including chat with strong UC integration. But the APIs are there – both on the Google Apps side as well as the UC side. gUnify is moving quickly to build out a solution optimized for UCaaS. Watch this space.

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3 Responses to "Google Voice: Asleep at the Switch" - Add Yours

Kevin Kieller 5/16/2013 4:10:03 PM

Even imperfect execution beats hypothetical potential.

Dave, I remember how we use to debate Google Voice versus Microsoft voice (OCS at the time, now Lync). As you state above you were a strong advocate of Google voice, as you were of Asterisk ... see a trend there?

In any case, the world is an interesting place when Microsoft (Lync) is more a cross-platform solution than the one from Google.

The value of UC and Collaboration is bringing tools and people together - to make them more efficient and effective. A communication "suite" is stronger than selecting best of breed weakly cobbled together tools. This is why the Microsoft Office suite gained market share and I would suggest this is why Lync is poised to gain market share. Google is working to build out its own communication suite but, as you point out, lack of support for Google voice leaves a big hole.

Russell Bennett 5/18/2013 6:47:33 AM

I have to agree with Kevin - except for the harsh implication on Dave's record of backing winners.... :-)

I half suspect that WebRTC is Google's exit route on UC: they spent big money on various technologies, both internal and external, and they can't see a way forward so they are giving it away 'for free'. This may work to some extent: not only will they extend their ad display business, but they will force you to log in and thereby capture more behavioral data.

Being fair to Google, Microsoft has a lengthy record of failed technologies (e.g. Zune). However, their business plan review process is clearly more rigorous and that allows them to shut down things that aren't working out. People are quick to point out that these failures are signs that "Microsoft doesn't get it" and has forgotten how to innovate. I would argue the exact opposite point: innovation is about failing repeatedly until you succeed.

The difference between Lync and Zune is that MSFT saw an empty space opportunity very early that was complementary to its other business; ignored the naysayers (PBX guys) and kept it's eye on a long term but very lucrative goal.
Dave Michels 5/23/2013 11:39:45 AM

Hey now! Google Voice was a winner - Google was a failure. I like the Idea of UC as a service that is totally independent of a particular type of phone, carrier, or phone system. The idea has legs. The problem really is Google isn't running with it, and no one else can because Google Voice is free. I wish they would hurry up and kill it off.

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