March 12, 2009

Google’s New Phone Service To Compete With Skype

Google announced on Thursday its new Google Voice service, which mixes traditional phone features with email capabilities that could provide a strong challenge to Skype and similar online phone services, Reuters reported.

Google Voice allows users to store transcripts of voicemail phone messages in their email inbox which they can search for specific information within a phone message.

Google Voice is essentially the re-branded technology of GrandCentral Communications, a company that Google acquired in July 2007 that gives users a lifelong universal phone number that can be directed to any other phone line.

The new service is Google's most recent effort to expand beyond online search and advertising.

Google Voice uses speech-recognition technology that the company developed for its Goog-411 telephone directory service, which automatically transcribes voicemails into text. The transcribed messages can be forwarded as an email or SMS text message to a person's email inbox.

Some see Google Voice as a direct challenge to EBay's Skype, which offers free domestic and international calls made over the Internet from one computer to another, but there is a charge to landlines and mobile phones.

However, Google does not view the service as a threat to Skype or other telecom companies any more than its Google Talk offering, which lets users chat over the Internet for free.

Craig Walker, now group product manager for real time communications at Google and co-founder of GrandCentral, told BBC News the service is about allowing your existing phone to work better.

He added that other than a feature that bills Google Voice users when they make long-distance phone calls, the product has no immediate means of generating revenue.

Google Voice is currently only available to former GrandCentral users. It will begin inviting users that had signed up for its waiting list within a few weeks, officials said.

"We will transcribe voicemails and convert it into text and put it in your inbox so that it's searchable and you will always have a record of that voicemail," Walker said.

"Voicemail need no longer be the chore it has been in the past," he added.


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