Saturday, March 21, 2009

Google Voice's Future

I was talking with a few people about Google Voice, and it seems that many people are worried about the future of Google Voice. According to a few sources, Google will be opening up GV to the public within a few weeks. There is concern that Google will make GV a pay service, making certain people (well, me) unhappy.

Here are my thought on what should happen with Google Voice.

1. Keep it free.
Seriously, Google: you've set the standard for a company which turns out free products yet makes an outrageous profit. Google bought GrandCentral in 2007 for 95 million US dollars. How can Google recoup that cost? The answer lies in looking to another product which Gogole bought but released as free: Google Earth. After Google acquired Keyhole, they were smart enough to release Google Earth as free, but they still made profit b creating advanced versions. This leads to my second thought:

2. Make a pro version.
More specifically, a business version. A quick search on Google (duh) shows that there are a few features GV does not currently have, but would not be impossible for them to add on -- for a nominal fee. If Google released a Google Voice Business Edition, they could market it the same way they sell Google Earth Pro: throw in some extra juicy pieces businesses can't live without. Some ideas include:
  • There's a lot of interest in making people's pre-existing phone numbers GV numbers. If Google makes that available for some amount, people will line up for GV.
  • GV does not currently support extensions (e.g. (555) 555-5555 #1234). Finish this thought for yourself.
  • More than 4-way conference call support, adding and dropping callers, increased bandwidth for conference calls
I'm sure the guys over in Mountain View can churn out a few more selling points, and GV will be practically self-sufficient -- whatever GV loses can be balanced by online advertisements.

3. Team up with Skype
Google, eBay. eBay, Google. Now that you're acquainted, consider your cards. Google, you are an internet-based company with a phone proxy service which makes calling people locally, domestically, or internationally very easy and cheap, but you lack the ability to place calls directly from your computer.

eBay, you own Skype, which allows people to place calls through the internet (thank you VoIP), but your internet-to-real-world calling rates are rather steep.

Seriously, Skype and GV make natural allies. GV provides the Skype user with a phone number. When people call the GV#, it will forward to their Skype account, letting people answer their calls from their computers. conversely, when Skype people SkypeOut, Skype will run the call through GV, saving Skype and the Skype user money. Either way, it also cuts out the middle man: if eBay ad Google aren't connected, users must SkypeOut or SkypeIn, travel on the phone networks, get to GV, go onto the internet, VoIP, and go back down again to the connection. It's much more effective for everyone if the call doesn't make that extra hop.

4. Don't Team Up with Skype
...are the Skype-lovers gone? They are? Good. Google, listen: you don't need a partnership. The only thing you'd get out of Skype would be computer-phone capabilities, something you're totally capable of building on your own. eBay. Who needs 'em?

5. Be smartphone-friendly
I want to see a Google Voice iPhone app and a Google Voice Android app. You'll do even better if you can make it look seamless.

6. Weld it in with the rest of Google's products
Speaking of seamless, here are some things which would make Google Voice even more amazing:
  • Google Earth, Google Maps: you have phone numbers in business info listings. If the person's logged in and is accessing the page from a computer, prompt them and ask if they wan to use GV.
  • Gmail: you've already released a neat video chat feature. Merge that with GV! Add in the transcriptions, recording capabilities, etc. and you'll have a wonderful UI on your hands. Plus, can you say "call-in memos and to-do lists"?
  • Google Desktop: transcriptions in archived index. 'Nuff said.
  • GOOG-411: Unlikely, but it would be awesome if you could dial into your GV account through GOOG-411, and even place calls. Hooray for free calls!


Google Voice is an excellent product. Google: keep GV free, integrate it, and blow the pants off of the telecommunications company.

1 comment:

CJ Millisock said...

This comment is several months late, but I completely agree. Google NEEDS to make an iPhone app and an Android app. And not a lame web app that works on both.