Networking

Google takes another step toward becoming your phone company

Google's expansion of its Internet-as-a-platform strategy continues now that it has acquired a VoIP company. See what it means for the future of phone services.

Google's expansion of its Internet-as-a-platform strategy continues. Google announced plans on Tuesday to acquire Global IP Solutions Holding, a company that does real-time VoIP and video processing.

The GIPS purchase is likely the final piece of the puzzle that Google needs to build a robust Internet-based phone and video calling system that can not only compete with Skype and Yahoo Messenger, but also give people a single phone number and voicemail box that unites their home phone, cell phone, and computer.

The four pillars Google already has in place to implement this strategy are:

What does it mean for Google's competitors?

As ZDNet's Larry Dignan pointed out, "The deal means that Google will own the voice and video conferencing engine behind its competitors' instant messaging systems."

He added:

"One interesting thing to note about GIPS is its customer list. On its site, GIPS touts Yahoo, IBM Lotus, AOL, WebEx and Baidu as customers. All of those companies compete with Google products. For instance, Yahoo uses GIPS VideoEngine PC product to deliver real-time voice over Yahoo Messenger. Is that really going to last when Google owns GIPS? It's the same story for AOL Instant Messenger. Simply put, Google will own the technology powering video and voice on the biggest IM clients. On the Google Apps front, WebEx uses GIPS VoiceEngine and so does Lotus Sametime. On the China front, Baidu also uses GIPS technology.

Google's plan

The future of the telephone call is as a voice packet. It's simply a far more efficient and flexible use of resources (albeit, call quality occasionally suffers). This is true for home phones, office phones, and mobile phones (when 4G arrives).

Google wants to thread the needle between the three, integrate text messaging and instant messaging into the system, and give users more control over the experience. Google also wants to turn phone calls into text documents that can be quickly accessed and searched after the call is finished.

With all that mind, Google is not really going to be your phone company. The search giant doesn't want to do the hard work of laying cable, hiring an army of technicians, or messing with regulatory agencies. Google wants to swoop in and provide an application layer on top of the various phone and voice services and tie them together over the Internet.

Sanity Check

There are going to be an increasing number of people, especially entrepreneurs and road warriors, who will simply have a smartphone plus a software phone on their laptop (similar to Skype). These are perfect candidates to benefit from Google's vision of the future of phone services.

Enterprises will be more interested in Cisco's Unified Messaging approach, which ties together corporate PBX and VoIP with smartphones, softphones, and messaging systems. Of course, both Cisco and Google want to integrate video calling into the mix as well.

Another interesting thing to watch is that if this vision becomes mainstream then it will essentially separate the user access layer of telecom communications (handled by Google, Cisco, Skype, etc.) from the telecom pipes (handled by the phone and cable companies). We can already see that happening, but voice services are the last piece that hasn't yet been revolutionized by the Internet.

About Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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