Google June 22 made its Google Voice application available to anyone who wants to use it, capping one year of gradual rollouts that began with select invitees, then to military personnel and students.
Google Voice is a Web calling and phone management application. The program, which is used by more than 1.4 million people in the world, gives users one number to ring their home, work and mobile phones.
The apps also lets users make free calls and text messages in the United States and Canada, and make low-cost international calls, among other capabilities.
Calls and messages can be accessed and managed through a phone or a Web browser, allowing users to listen to messages, forward messages, add a caller to an address book or block a caller as spam, and transcribe voicemail messages.
To this point, users had to request and receive an invite to try Google Voice. Google wanted to be sure it put the infrastructure in place to handle a rollout to the general public, Google Voice Product Manager Vincent Paquet told eWEEK.
Moreover, Paquet and his team wanted to add a number of capabilities along the way.
These included an HTML5-based mobile Web app (created after Apple rejected the original Google Voice for iPhone app), the ability to use Google Voice with an existing number, an integrated voicemail player to play messages in Gmail, and smaller perks such as SMS to e-mail and the Google Voice extensions for Google’s Chrome Web browser.
While Google Voice has come a long way, Paquet said he and his team are working hard to shore up the app’s future. Google acquired Gizmo5, which makes a Web-based VOIP (voice over IP) client that lets users make phone calls over the Internet.
Paquet declined to say how the Gizmo5 assets are being leveraged. Gizmo5 would give Google Voice the capability to enable one computer to call another, or the computer to call any phone, similar to Skype. Google Voice used Gizmo5 to connect endpoints before acquiring the company.
“We designed Google Voice to be endpoint-agnostic and we certainly want it to be accessible from any type of endpoint, not just phones,” Paquet said. “The direction in which we are going to keep working is to use the Web, which is probably the best UI there is in the world, to give you more control and personalization over your communications.”
Google Voice to Get Enhanced Even More
That includes building features that users can access the same way across all their phones, which has been a challenge with so many disparate phone makers and telecommunications carriers.
Expect Google Voice for the enterprise, as well. Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product management at Google, told eWEEK last December Google Voice is coming as a product within Google Apps.
Indeed, Google acquired GIPS Technologies, which makes software for processing high-definition audio and video over the Web. Google could conceivably use the GIPS technology with Google Voice to offer enterprise VOIP.
When these solutions, along with the rumor that his team was building a desktop application for Google Voice, were suggested to Paquet, he declined to comment. “We keep testing things, and some make it and some don’t.”
The next level of efficiency might be to integrate Google Voice with specific Google Apps beyond just Gmail. For example, Google could integrate Google Voice with Google Talk to place audio calls, though it is unclear how Gizmo5 would fit in here.
Google could also integrate Google Voice with Google Calendar and provide users with notifications to their phones when an appointment is coming up.
Google Voice integration with Google Docs could send Voice notifications to Docs users’ smartphones when a document or presentation had been altered.
Looking outside the realm of Google Apps, Google could also integrate Google Voice with popular social services, such as Facebook and Twitter. Paquet did not comment on whether such plans were in the mix, but he appreciated the suggestions.
Noting that the Google Voice team builds most of its features based on user feedback, Paquet encouraged users to tell him what they would like to see in the app. Readers are welcome to leave suggestions in the comments section. They will be passed along to Paquet.