What’s Google doing with voice?

March 17, 2009 by Garrett Smith

There’s been quite a buzz surrounding Google’s release of Google voice. The offering is the second coming of GrandCentral, the service Google acquire a few years back.

Anytime a company like Google get’s involved with voice it seems like everyone in and around telecommunications loses their brains.

Folks. Google voice is not a business. It is simply a feature of a larger offering (which may or may not come to fruition).

You have to look at Google voice in the context of what Google is – an advertising company that wants to be a commerce company. To think that Google has ambitions past bolstering and or protecting their main income streams (ads) is far fetched at best.

In order for Google to continue to drive ad revenues they need more advertisers. To do this they need to make it easier to create something that requires advertising (I.E. an online business).

Slowly but surely Google is piecing together all of the components an entrepreneur or existing offline business needs to do business online. Sort of what eBay tried to do (but is failing at with) PayPal and Skype.

Google offers a way to make a site (Sites), optimize it for search (Site optimizer, webmaster tools), advertise it (Adwords, Ad manager), track performance (Analytics) and take payments (Google checkout). Now sprinkle in hosted productivity and collaboration products like Google docs, and way to communicate (Google Voice, Google talk) you’ve got all of need to launch a basic business online.

Today these all look like disparate offerings, but when put together they actually fit together well.

Can Google execute on this? Don’t know. That’s their problem.

But don’t expect them to be a VoIP/voice provider in any traditional sense.

Worse case they’ll use Google voice as a way to cover the black hole created by online leads that are converted offline. Like what Ifbyphone is doing with their call tracking services.

It’s a big problem for many marketers. Many of which would spend more if they new where all of their revenues were coming from.


  • Jeff

    I think it also goes to show us that the costs for phone calls, dedicated phone numbers etc are so incredibly low that we have been gouged by carriers and voip companies for so long. It’s time someone like google came in to clean things up a bit.
    What’s wrong with advertising? Their algorithms are getting so good now that when reading my gmail, the ads on the right are very relevant and I’ve clicked through to them. Now with google voice and transcription, I expect to see ads off to the side that are relevant to my voicemail content. Nothing wrong with that …
    You say “But don’t expect them to be a VoIP/voice provider in any traditional sense.” that’s exactly it .. the traditional sense is over.

  • I think the strategy could be exploratory into a much greater offering – tightly integrated with chat, maps, search, and other apps. This could lead to a significant threat to PBX manuf revenue.

    Check out my explanation/thoughts at http://www.pindropsoup.com


  • Garrett Smith

    @ Jeff:

    From a consumer standpoint free is good. But if I was a service provider I wouldn’t say that.

    I never said their was anything wrong with advertising. Google is great at it. And that’s the point.

    Google voice isn’t a voice play – it’s an advertising play. Whether it enables more businesses to use Google’s main profit center (AdWords) or enables existing customers to spend/target better.

    It’s not going to kill any teleco’s, VoIP players, etc. It’s not a game changer in the voice space (but it could be another nail in other online advertising companies’ coffins).

  • Garrett,
    As I usually tend to agree with you, it is time I disagree 🙂
    Google going into voice means quite a lot. I don’t see this as an ads play but rather as a hosted service play. Their Google apps offering might not threaten Microsoft Office just yet, but when it will, a year or two down the road – it is going to be very interesting.
    I use google apps and Microsoft Sharepoint. I must say that google apps are way more flexible with sharing and collaboration in mind. When you tie to it a voice solution – it can be a killer UC platform.

  • Garrett Smith

    @ Tsahi

    It’s a possibility, but I don’t see Google becoming an all-encompassing company a la Microsoft.

    While they have a lot of talented folks to make it happen, they need to increase their revenues to keep their stock price going up.

    They’re best bet to do that is to continue to dominate online advertising…not create completely separate businesses.

  • Why not record your phone calls and keep them forever. Just like gmail, no need to delete your email just search it.

    Google goal? Let us index your phone calls so you can get them back if needed.

    Really though, is there a market that good has not looked into getting into? They are exploring all possibilities in all area’s now.

  • Garrett Smith

    @TJ Stamm

    I can record all my calls today. Both my IP PBX and my Skype account can do that.

    As far as I’m concerned I don’t want Google listening, interpreting my calls and then attaching searchable meta data to them.

    That’s like agreeing to allowing to a wiretap. No chance in hell.

    If you are looking for advanced VM functionality, why not urge your phone provider to develop a simple voicemail management system by which you can tag, sort and search your voicemails?

    For instance, John Smith calls you about your new widget. After listening to the VM, you can tag it with “Widget request”, put it in a “Widgets” folder.

    Now that it’s archived a basic meta data search tool would allow you to grab them and re-listen…without Google listening to your calls.

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