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Google Voice: Another Baby Step

My annual market review article from last year, Enterprise Communications Market Enters New Competitive Order, included a discussion of Google and its potential role in the enterprise communications market. Pertaining to Grand Central Communications, I included the following quote from the Google blog, "We're particularly excited about this because it ensures that not only will we have the resources to continue to bring you even more innovative communications features down the road, but that we will be able to continue to offer you the service, with many features for free, for a long time to come." With today's announcement of Google Voice it appears that the company has kept its promise.Eric Krapf's post today speculates whether Google poses a threat to enterprise communications system suppliers by coming into the market through the backdoor via mobility. Its Android operating system, middleware and applications for mobile communications devices is progressing slowly, but surely. As the universe of communications solutions (consumer/business, enterprise/carrier, fixed/mobile, et al) converge there is little doubt that Google can become a player in enterprise communications through a SaaS offering, if it so chooses. Google is the ultimate SaaS vendor, because everything it offers to the market at large is available as a download, only, via the Internet.

Google does not have a true Unified Communications (UC) offering, but it does have a few of the necessary elements already in place, such as Gmail, Calendar, Earth, and Documents, and YouTube can certainly be used as the foundation for future video applications. Google Voice is just the latest addition to the evolving UC element portfolio.

Customers should not postpone any current buying decisions to wait for a possible Google enterprise communications solution, like a few are for Microsoft's OCS. If Google does become an enterprise communications competitor it may not occur for at least five years, a seeming lifetime in a dynamic market space. Based on analyst presentations I have seen I know that Cisco counts Google among its few major strategic competitors in the UC market, despite the fact that the two companies have little competitive in common today. Whatever they do, if they do, will roll out slowly over an extended time period.