Building a Complete VOIP Solution
Google itself views the Google Voice and Skype services as complementary. Google Voice supports the Gizmo Project softphone as a forwarding phone, or an endpoint, which means users can have calls forwarded from their Google Voice numbers and pick those calls up at their computers. If Google acquired Skype it would be able to do the same with that VOIP client, but with a much broader customer base. Yet, as the Times story alluded to, now that Skype has the dark cloud of the Joltid lawsuit hovering over it, it might behoove Google to develop competing VOIP services if it wants to own those endpoints.Swensen added, "Google Voice is really popular with businesspeople, as they really value the advanced telephony management capabilities. That demographic will sometimes have a few different solutions they work with to find the best value for each situation. For instance, they would have Skype and a mobile VOIP provider like Talkster in addition to their wireless provider. Google Voice would be more of a competitor to the Talksters of the world, as it offers the cheap international calling but includes the call management and voice mail-to-e-mail capabilities." Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle told eWEEK the primary driver for VOIP with consumers is cheap long-distance calling, which Skype and Google Voice both offer. He also said swallowing Skype would have been quite a challenge for Google. "Buying Skype would give Google the infrastructure and customer base of the larger service, but Google hasn't really done much with billed services," Enderle said. "They don't yet seem to get that the long-term economics of 'free' generally aren't sustainable if there is much cost involved. So buying Skype would be a market grab, but sustaining it might be problematic for them."
IDC analyst Rebecca Swensen told eWEEK that Google Voice could be linked to Google Talk to approximate Skype's PC calling services. Google also offers video chat via Gmail, which could theoretically be added to any VOIP platform Google was considering. Google would also need to build transport services to carry the calls. For now, Swensen said, Skype and Google Voice users will continue to use both solutions independently.