Mobile Google Voice apps put Google in middle
The Google Voice storm keeps growing louder.
Though still not yet open to everyone, the call routing service has industry watchers predicting a Google coup of yet another sector. Today's news – that the company has released Android and Blackberry versions of Voice that can sync with a phone's contacts and streamline outgoing calls – just fans the flames.
The new apps streamline the experience of using Google Voice on your mobile phone. (For an overview of the service's features, click here.) With the new apps, according to a Google blog post, users can:
• Access your voicemail: read message transcripts, follow along with "karaoke-style" playback of messages, read SMS messages sent to your Google
• Voice number (even if your phone doesn't receive SMS messages) and access your call history
• Place calls that display your Google Voice number from your address book, the app dialer (Blackberry) or the native dialer (Android)
• Send SMS messages that display your Google Voice number
• Place international calls at low rates
Wednesday's announcement and demo versions of the apps have some who've used them, including GigaOm's Om Malik, asking: "Can Google be your phone company?" The answer, of course, is yes. In Malik's view, Google Voice for mobiles reduces the wireless carrier to just a conduit to Google. "The app is so tightly enmeshed with Android OS and the address book and other apps, you hardly think that you’re using Google Voice," he writes.
If Google bundles the Google Voice app with Android and sells it to makers of cheaper feature phones, it can start to insert itself between the consumers and wireless companies.
This "man in the middle" position is Google’s strength. The company has inserted itself between consumers and information via its search offering and profited handsomely from it. Why can’t it do the same with this voice offering?