Report: Google’s Voice Possibilities

1Executive Summary

Google recently transitioned its Google Voice product from beta to released service, though without much fanfare. While an intriguing service with several innovative features, it’s also fairly simple to ignore; Google rarely mentions it at conferences, nor does it clearly relate to many of the more visible Google services or moneymaking ventures. Nonetheless, Google Voice has over a million users and Google continues to enhance it, and must thusly have bigger plans for it. Those plans just may involve entering the enterprise Unified Communications (UC) business, a crowded and growing sector for business communications.

What used to be called, telephony, or even VoIP, has transitioned into UC. This new moniker describes the fact that voice is no longer the only form of enterprise communications — UC acknowledges email, IM, video, collaboration, calendaring and even SMS as critical forms of business communications.

These are all elements Google currently offers, but the company isn’t really considered an enterprise UC vendor (yet). The market leaders in that sector include names like Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft, and IBM — huge corporations competing with sophisticated on-premise solutions. To stay competitive, traditional PBX vendors are rapidly extending their solutions to the desktop with desktop tools including collaboration capabilities, integration to calendars and IM/presence options. CIOs are also looking to the cloud and embracing solutions such as hosted messaging and even hosted voice. New requirements are favoring solutions that enable mobility and teleworking. And these and other factors are driving significant adoption of smartphones.

Google is well positioned in most aspects of UC — except voice. To get there, a logical solution would be for the company to acquire a PBX company, which would allow Google to compete in UC on the existing terms of engagement. Or the company could reevaluate the technology and the market and evolve its existing Google Voice solution into a robust-yet-unique UC offering.

This report takes a look at Google Voice’s potential fit into the UC ecosystem and suggests the service is headed for the enterprise. The current Google Voice offering is a free consumer service with simple features and little integration. But just as Gmail expanded to Google Docs, Google Calendar and eventually Google Apps, Google Voice has the potential to grow into something far more powerful and disruptive. The service, with some potential enhancements and stronger integration, could lead to a powerful enterprise class (fee-based) solution for unified communications — on Google’s own terms of engagement.

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