A Google executive said the company has only scratched the surface of what it plans to do with Google Voice, the phone management application that lets users route calls to all of their phones from one unique number.
That pales in comparison to the nearly 500 million users Skype enjoys worldwide, but unlike that popular VOIP app, Google Voice users must have a phone carrier to use the service. However, that will change in 2010.
Google in November acquired Gizmo5, a maker of so-called softphone software that will enable Google Voice to operate like Skype by letting users place calls via the Internet from one PC to another or from a PC to a landline or mobile phone.
Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product management, declined to outline specifics for how Google is implementing Gizmo5 with Google Voice. However, Horowitz, who joined Google from Yahoo almost two years ago and oversees Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa and other Google Apps, was very enthusiastic about the move and Google Voice on the whole in a recent interview with eWEEK:
"What we're trying to do with telephony is give people a seamless experience that frees up their telephony communication from the silos where it's lived for the last decade. Voicemail, my contacts, all of those things have been segregated from the rest of my Web experience. We have big plans to do a better job.
Voicemail transcription, inbox integration and threaded SMS are fantastic features, but we're really just scratching the surface. Gizmo5 gives us talent and talent technology. They have specific tech and skills in further integrating telephony with devices and desktop and Web-based computing. We want to make sure you're communication is available to you irrespective of where you are at, what device you have in your pocket, etc."
Horowitz said Google sees not only the future of communications funneling through the Web, but every computing service for work and play.
Google has been toiling in this so-called cloud computing paradigm for a few years now, hosting its Google Apps collaboration programs for consumers and businesses. While more than two million businesses have signed up for Google Apps, there has been a hesitancy among the bulk of users, especially businesses, to embrace the cloud.
That started to change in 2009, and was particularly evident in the prevalent use of Web-based social networks such as Facebook, which has more than 350 million users and Twitter, which has racked up some 60 million users, most of them joining in 2009.
""We used to walk into a lot of accounts, and when I spoke to people about cloud computing there was a certain hesitancy and tentativeness about what it meant to surrender their data to the cloud. People had all kinds of concerns, all of them valid. We saw that dissipate over the course of 2009 and it's partly generational. People that grew up on the Internet have fewer concerns about what it means to entrust a server with their content.It's no longer a question of whether or not this is happening. It is happening and now we need to solve the hard problems together and I think that's what we have to look forward to in 2010, rolling up our sleeves and continuing to establish to the trust relationship we have with our users.""
Google took several steps to cultivate user trust in 2009, unveiling the Data Liberation Front to let users export the data created within users' Google Apps to apps outside Google's purview. Google also launched the Google Dashboard to let users see exactly how much data they were creating within Google to host.
Horowitz said such trust-taking measures will pay off. What makes for a winning cloud computing formula in 2010 and beyond? Speed and availability, which are not coincidentally the top two traits of Google's world-leading search engine, he said.
""We want to build the cloud in such a way that it's got all of the qualities you would want. You want it to be blazingly fast. You want it to be accessible wherever you are on the planet within milliseconds. You want it to be accessible on whatever device you happen to be at, whether that's an enormous big-screen monitor, or whether something the size of a wristwatch. You want it to be transparent and flow across services and devices without you having to think about or program it.""
Google isn't the only company with cloud inclinations. IBM, Microsoft, Cisco Systems and a slew of other rivals plan to accelerate their cloud computing strategies in 2010.
These companies have considerable financial and computing resources, which means they will push each other and cloud computing market leader Google. This is good news for customers, who will benefit from more choices, as well as the vendors vying for their business.