Google unveiled a new VOIP service on Wednesday that integrates directly into Gmail. The feature is quite simple and allows users to place free calls to phones in the United States and Canada. For now, few folks have been able to fully test out the service, so there’s no telling if there are any bugs that could cause some users to switch to an alternative. But at first glance, with some basic use, placing calls in Gmail provides a robust experience.
Going forward, Gmail’s new phone service is undoubtedly taking aim at Skype, the leader in the VOIP market. And although some might say that Gmail won’t be able to match Skype just yet, some see it a different way. Phone calling on Gmail might not be perfect right now, but it effectively puts Skype on notice that Google is ready to steal market share. Take a look at the ways Gmail’s VOIP service poses a huge challenge to Skype’s Internet phone service.
1. It’s readily available
One of the issues facing Skype now that Gmail has VOIP is that it’s no longer the only readily available solution on the market. Every Gmail user now has the ability to place calls by clicking one option and dialing. They don’t need to open a special program or wait for a service to load after downloading the plug-in. They need only to click the phone option and call someone. That convenience could hurt Skype.
2. It’s coming to more places
Google Voice is quickly making its way to more and more platforms. Having it available on the Google Voice page and on Gmail is one thing, but now that users can place calls on the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android-based devices, it doesn’t bode well for Skype. Admittedly, the VOIP company does have several mobile options available to customers as well, but Google has far more clout among users. And the more places its service is available, the worse it is for Skype.
3. Google Voice offers more options
Google Voice delivers far more options to users than Skype. At first glance, it might just be a service that allows folks to place calls, but it can also provide voicemail-transcription service, free text messages and the ability to work on several phones with a single number. Gmail phone integration isn’t that advanced, but if it gets users thinking about Google Voice, the search giant will already find itself in the lead.
4. Free calling in key areas
One issue with the phone-calling service in Gmail is that it doesn’t provide all the international-calling options that Skype boasts. But the vast majority of users will likely only want to place calls around the United States and Canada anyway. It might not be ideal, but right now, Google is delivering a viable experience with its U.S. and Canada support for the vast majority of its customers. Those who want to chat overseas will move to Skype.
Google: The New Household Name in VOIP?
5. It’s becoming the one-stop shop
Gmail itself is becoming the one-stop shop that Skype will never match. The service offers e-mail, social networking, phone calling and instant messaging, to name a few services. Skype has a few of those features, but not all of them. Today’s Web user wants consolidated services. Google is offering that; Skype isn’t.
6. Skype is well-known, but so is Gmail
Some say that Skype will be able to maintain its lead in the VOIP space because it’s a well-known firm. But Google is even more well-known, and it has a built-in user base in Gmail that it can capitalize on. Thus, the immense market influence of the Google and Gmail brands readily trump Skype’s position as a “household name” in VOIP space.
7. Future potential
Let’s not forget that Gmail phone calling is just the first step of many. The search giant has a plan with the service that it wants to implement over time. And although there are shortcomings right now, it’s entirely possible that Google will quietly update the service every so often to bring more Skype-like functionality to it. As that happens, Skype will need to stay ahead-or else.
8. Call quality is outstanding (for VOIP)
As anyone who has used VOIP knows, the call quality could be much better. But calls placed over Gmail’s phone service have outstanding quality. In fact, they match Skype quite well. That should help Google appeal to customers who want ideal service, and potentially cause some current Skype and Gmail users to opt for Google’s alternative. Simply put, if call quality matters, Google is competing quite well.
9. Gmail has video chat
Part of the value of Skype is that users can chat with each other over video through a Webcam. But Gmail offers the same option. And for most users, its quality holds up quite well compared with Skype’s. If Skype wants to continue enjoying success, it needs to find unique value propositions that Google can’t quite muster right now.
10. Simplicity reigns supreme
The beauty of Google products is that they’re simple. Users can simply load them up, choose the option they want and perform that action. The same is true when placing calls on Gmail. Although placing a call is easy in Skype, it requires many more actions to start the service. Simplicity means something to customers, and so far, Gmail wins out over Skype.