[LINK] Google Voice
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Fri Mar 13 02:00:06 EST 2009
'Googles Free Phone Manager Could Threaten a Variety of Services'
By MIGUEL HELFT nytimes.com Published: March 12, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO Google stepped up its attack on the telecommunications
industry on Thursday with a free service called Google Voice that, if
successful, could chip away at the revenue of companies big and small,
like eBay, which owns Skype, telephone companies and a string of
technology start-up firms.
Google Voice is an expanded version of a service previously known as
GrandCentral, a start-up that Google acquired 20 months ago. It is
intended to simplify the way people handle phone calls, voice mail and
The service will initially be made available only to existing
GrandCentral subscribers; Google says the general public will be able to
use it in the coming weeks.
Google Voice allows users to route all their calls through a single
number that can ring their home, work and mobile phones simultaneously.
It also gives users a single and easy-to-manage voice mail system for
multiple phone lines. And it lets users make calls, routed via the
Internet, free in the United States and for a small fee internationally.
Analysts singled out the Internet calling features as the aspect of the
service that is potentially most disruptive to established companies.
While inexpensive Internet calls have become commonplace, Googles
potential to reach a mass audience could make a difference, some analysts
I would consider Google to have the potential to change the rules of the
game because of their ability to bring all kinds of people into their new
tools from their existing tools, said Phil Wolff, the editor of Skype
But in Skype, the dominant player in Internet calling, Google will find a
The service, which is free when people call other Skype users and carries
slight fees for calls to regular phones, has 400 million registered users
and is adding 350,000 users a day, eBay said. The company is focused on
enhancing the services video and videoconferencing capabilities.
Skype is light years ahead in terms of video, simultaneous chat and
voice, and the installed base is huge, said Ross Sandler, an analyst
with RBC Capital Markets. I dont think they have anything to worry
In a presentation to investors on Wednesday, Josh Silverman, Skypes
president, said that chat and voice will become table stakes in
People will make their choice of communication software based on who
makes the richest video experience.
EBay has acknowledged that Skype does not have synergies with other parts
of eBay, signaling that it may try to sell the service in the months
Internet calls work differently on Google Voice than on Skype.
Rather than starting a call from a computer, a specialized phone or an
application on a mobile device, Google Voice users call into their voice
mail service from any phone. Once there, they can push a button to get a
dial tone and call a different number. As such, the service is not set up
to handle video calls, though Google offers simple video-chatting
capabilities through Google Talk, its instant-messaging service.
For international calls to landlines in a handful of major countries,
Google Voice is marginally cheaper than Skype, while Google Voice calls
to international mobile phones are as much as a third cheaper than
Vincent Paquet, a co-founder of GrandCentral and now a senior product
manager at Google, said that fees from Internet calls would probably play
an important role in subsidizing the free service, which for now will not
We can generate enough revenue from international calling to support the
service, he said, noting that Google Voice was now running on Googles
servers and could operate at very low cost.
Analysts said it was not clear how much domestic or international calling
business Google Voice could take from telephone companies.
Google, which makes software for cellphones, is already at odds with
several telecommunications companies over policy issues and over who will
control the quickly growing revenue generated by mobile Internet services
Some of Google Voices other features, like voice mail transcription
services, are offered for a fee by start-ups like Spinvox and PhoneTag.
And conferencing capabilities are sold by some telecommunications
providers, but they are also available free through some online services.
Google Voice may raise more hackles with privacy advocates, and perhaps
regulators, than it does with competitors.
The service would allow Google, which already collects vast amounts of
data about the behavior of Internet users, to gather information on their
It raises two distinct problems, said Marc Rotenberg, executive
director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. In the privacy
world, it is increased profiling and tracking of users without
safeguards. But the other problem is the growing consolidation of
Internet-based services around one dominant company.
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