Google Voice: phone companies' nightmare

Google Voice
Google Voice should worry all the phone companies

Anything Google does usually gets hyped to the eyeballs. Yet the reaction to Google Voice has been pretty quiet over here, either because it's not possible to test it in the UK yet or because it's quite hard to visualise what it really does.

Google Voice gives you a new phone number, then any call made to that number can be accessed from any of your phones: landline, mobiles or VoIP, all managed via the web.

So there's no longer any need to list all your landlines and mobiles on a business card - just the single number.

It enables you to keep all your voice messages as text - and perhaps in time all your messages, email and voicemails in one place, in searchable form, once Gmail integration is sorted.

More importantly, Voice shouldn't have to be accessed through a PC. Android potentially gives Google the ability to make any phone a portal to all your calls, emails, messages and contacts.

And for good measure, it throws in free calls for users in the United States.

That means no matter how you make or receive a call, Google plans to be involved, sitting in the middle, managing the call process and presumably analysing message content in some way.

That could have one hell of an impact. Microsoft, who think of themselves as business messaging kings with Outlook, won't like that. Nor will Skype. And the telephone operators won't like the idea of being relegated to a bunch of pipelines leading into a Google Voice application.

After some recent stumbles, this has the look of a classic Google move: big, ambitious and bound to annoy the hell out of a bunch of existing interests.

There are still lots of questions: in a world where everything comes to mobiles anyway, does anyone need a single number? Does the service provide good enough quality? Will businesses see this as a useful service? And do you really want Google knowing what you do on your phone as well as everything else?

We'll see whether the reality matches the promise as soon as it hits the UK.

In the meantime, take a look at it yourself, at the Google YouTube channel.

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