According to Richi Jennings, an analyst with San Francisco-based Ferris Research, the combination of the popularity of Google Inc.s browser and the new clients clean, easy-to-use interface could let the Internet telephony program become quite popular.
Google Talk requires customers to subscribe to Gmail, Googles Web-based e-mail service. To sign up for the IM and voice-over-IP package, users must enter their phone numbers at the Gmail Web site and then receive a text invitation.
In a trans-Atlantic voice call over Google Talk VOIP, Jennings commented to Ziff Davis Internet on the quality of the connection. "This could give Skype [a popular VOIP service] some real competition."
The Luxembourg-based Skype Technologies SA has innovated in the VOIP market and led the charge for broadband PC-to-PC voice chat, successfully aggregating a 40 million-strong community of users worldwide.
As in any growing market, there will inevitably be competition, but Skype is the company to beat, industry insiders say.
For example, Google isnt the only company targeting Skype, as Yahoo Inc. in May added VOIP capabilities to its Yahoo Messenger service.
Some analysts said Google entering the fray only proves that this is a market getting ready to explode. However, Skype isnt the company that should be worried, said Jacob Guedalia, CEO of mobile Internet phone company
Google Talk could also open up the currently proprietary IM market, analysts said. Unlike the better-known America Online Inc., Yahoo and Microsoft Corp. IM programs, the Google Talk Beta is based on the XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), an open standard. This protocol is also known as the Jabber standard after the open-source project from which it was born.
Customers can use Googles beta client software, which only currently works with Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
At the same time, because Google Talk is based on XMPP, users can also chat with Jabber-compliant clients, such as GAIM, Trillian Pro and iChat . Google said it plans to release native Mac OS X and Linux clients in the future.
At this time, Google Talk cant connect with AIM users. However, AOLs Enterprise Federation Partner Program enables partner companies to use XMPP to talk with AIM users via AOLs Federation Gateway. This works by transferring messages from one system to another in a way thats reminiscent of the old RFC-822/X.400 e-mail gateways before RFC-822 became the dominant e-mail standard.
On the voice side, Google said it will soon use the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). Once that capability is in place, the company will enable interoperability with VOIP services including EarthLink Inc.s Vling and the Gizmo Project by the SIPphone team. In addition, Google is providing an open API.