There’s been a bit of buzz created by TechCrunch’s leaking of a Google Voice desktop app built from the Gizmo platform last week.
Most of the buzz has been driven by speculation as if or when the desktop app will be released. Many have proclaimed this to be a move that would put Google Voice in direct competition with Skype.
Some have even gone so far as to suggest that this Google Voice desktop app might be a Skype killer or at the very least become a heavy competitor.
The reality is that killing Skype or even putting a sizable dent in their business won’t be easy for Google Voice even with a desktop app. Here’s why:
- No motivation to switch – The majority of Skype users use Skype for things like Skype-to-Skype calls, video chat, collaboration and cheap international calling. While the new Google Voice app might eventually mimic these features, why would a Skype user switch? Google Voice must come out with something that will motivate current Skype users to switch. Oh and don’t talk about the free number – I’m sure Skype could hand out the same thing.
- Poor Track Record – Google has a poor track record of success outside of their core business of search and advertising. The likelihood of them successfully mashing two companies (GrandCentral and Gizmo5) together underneath one roof and taking out the market leader is very slim – no matter how much money they have.
- Privacy Issues – Sure Google Voice is free and serves a purpose, but at some point people will eventually become wary of the amount of data they are freely giving to Google (who is selling this to advertisers). It is only a matter of time before folks realize that in many cases Google is just as bad as Facebook is when it comes to sharing data with third parties.
- Business Model – At some point Google Voice will need to make direct revenues or act as a channel that creates indirect revenues (I.E. monetized by advertising). Right now Google Voice is popular, but it’s free. How many would pay $5 – $10 a month for it? I’m not sure. Plus ad supported calling has proven time and time again to be a failed business model. Now money could be made selling minutes (outbound), however that is increasingly difficult to do.
In the end a Google Voice desktop app will certainly broaden the appeal and usage of the service. But it doesn’t appear to offer anything more than what can already be found with Skype (and others).
It’s simply not a game changer, not enough to kill Skype and likely won’t put much of a dent in their business.