I was using Grand Central long before Google bought them. Grand Central was an exciting concept as it brought advanced telephony features to existing phone services. You could not use Grand Central unless you already had a phone. Ater Google re-launched Grand Central post acquisition as Google Voice, the world was prepared for Google to jump into the voice space.
Our wait has ended. Not because they have actually done anything, but the opposite. It’s time to stop waiting.
Last week perhaps the biggest news out of Google IO, Google unveiled a new messaging platform centered around Google+. The name is Google Hangouts (version 2). The new expanded Hangouts is a separate application for Android, iOS, and a web interface that supports IM and video chat. It replaces Google Talk and G+ Messenger. Well at least that’s the plan. The feedback hasn’t been so great so Google now allows users to migrate back to the old Talk application in case they still want to communicate with others.
The basic problem is Hangouts is a step backward. It’s claim to fame is better synchronization among devices – also it supports 10-15 (different figures in different places) simultaneous video chat participants. Its list of problems is a bit longer. For one, the Google Voice integration is gone. Users that “upgrade” to Hangouts will lose ability to make calls to the PSTN, and won’t be able to send SMS messages. Hangouts supports video calling, but not voice (which do you use more?). Another point of contention is that Hangouts won’t support XMPP server relationships like Talk did – there goes enterprise integrations to platforms from Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, and others.
Google positions the new Hangouts as its strategic future – something likely modeled after Skype and Facebook’s messaging solution. It is intended to be cross platform – unless you happen to use a Blackberry or Microsoft phone.
Google Voice has been bothering me for a while because I don’t see Google doing anything with it – and its service quality is degrading. It languishes in the GooglePlex as a cost center that hasn’t been monetized. Though costs are down with the two principals Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet gone. Not to mention any costs of development to integrate it into other Google products.
The fact that Hangouts was arguably one of the biggest announcements at the Google IO conference, and somehow forgot to include the highly visible features of Google Voice is quite the Freudian Slip.
After reviewing web comments over the weekend, Google+ updated its page stating “Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice, and making/receiving phone calls is just the beginning.” You can read that multiple ways, and I might recommend to start considering a replacement search to Google Voice users.
Google simply isn’t serious about voice. It hasn’t done much with Google Voice and it is an afterthought with the new Hangouts. There are ways to integrate business class voice services into the Google Apps cloud solution. From a premises perspective – check out Esna and AVST. Also, some UC vendors, such as Siemens Enterprise, support Apps integration. From the cloud perspective Verizon has integrated Google Apps into its hosted UC offer. Also, check out startup gUnify, which offers a clever integration between Google Apps and hosted UC from BroadSoft based providers.
- New Hangouts App Conflicts With Google Voice Feature; Fix Coming (allthingsd.com)
- Hangouts is ‘the future of Google Voice,’ full calling functionality will return to desktop soon (theverge.com)
- Hangouts in Gmail dumps Google Voice integration (pcworld.com)
- Google Hangouts upgrade removes ability to host Google Voice calls on your computer (theverge.com)
- Reports: Google Voice incompatible with your iPhone 4? (reviews.cnet.com)
- Don’t Upgrade to Hangouts If You Use Google Voice on Your Computer (gizmodo.com)