Google has finally rolled out a solution to allow US-based Gmail users to make and receive FREE calls using Google Voice technology. At a first glance it would appear that Google has set its sights on Skype; however, a competitor such as Facebook offers a much bigger market for Google to tap into.
Over the past several years Google has put its finger in several different markets. Google has not just been a search engine for quite some time. They have moved into email, telecommunications, GPS, advertising, video, finance, etc. Google has had great success with its’ varies products partially because they keep their users close to home. Most of their products are stand alone. This means that you login or use them all from Google or Gmail. Their new integrated (as opposed to standalone) phone call feature in Gmail as well as a rumored social networking service is a great indication that Google is looking to compete with the Facebook giant.
What exactly does this new feature in Gmail let you do? This allows you to use your Google Voice account to make calls from your computer, similar to Skype. These calls are free to any U.S. or Canadian phone number and are very affordable to international numbers. Some of the biggest advantages of this service are that it seems to have better call quality compared to Skype; it allows you to screen your calls, listen to the voicemail as someone is saying it, transcribe your voicemails into text, and set different rules for different callers. Google provides a very feature rich product that is almost too hard to ignore.
What is Google’s goal? Google would like to presumably be a part of your entire online experience. First, they would like you to use their web browser (Google Chrome), which is our preferred browser (see our blog post on why). Second, they would like to give you a reason to be signed into Gmail more. For those who are not Gmail users, they hope that you will become one to use their new feature rich email platform. Third, they want to make every action you do on a website relate back to Google. Example: You are on a website and you go to the contact page. The contact info is now clickable. If you click on the address it will give you a map or directions using Google Maps. If you click on the phone number, it will now give you the option to place the call using your Gmail account. These are reasons enough to prove that Google’s target is not Skype. Although both use the VOIP concept the end result is not the same. If Google created a standalone application that you downloaded and installed such as Skype, it would not give them the same online presence nor would it promote their other products such as Gmail as well.
What most people do not realize is that Google already has much of the tools in place to compete with Facebook. If we breakdown Gmail it is missing some obvious features of a social networking service, but it already has GTalk (Facebook chat), email (message sending), phone calls (Facebook does not have), user accounts, and contacts (friends). When Google finally rolls out their social networking service it will most likely be integrated into Gmail to promote a one-stop-shop platform. This means you stay logged into Gmail all the time. From one screen you can do your networking, phone calls, chats, emails, and use their several other services. We will eventually see this concept move into the mobile phone industry as well. Google has already made its products very compatible with the Android software. To no surprise Google has also made several of its’ products more compatible with Google Chrome (plug-ins) than any other web browser.
Should we be worried that Google is moving so aggressively into the varies online markets? I say absolutely not. I am personally very excited to see what Google holds for our online future. Google so far has been a very generous company. Most of their products are free, and if not they are very affordable compared to their competitors. My only regret is not buying stock in them many years ago.
By: Josh Grillo