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Google Voice to storm the enterprise in 2010

Google exec says an enterprise Voice product is coming as part of Google Apps.

Google is planning on releasing an enterprise version of Google Voice in 2010, said Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard in an interview earlier this week in eWeek. Voice will be bundled with Google Apps.

Think about it. Combine Voice (a VoIP app) with the collaborative nature of Apps (e-mail and office apps). Now add in Wave (instant messaging on steroids) and Talk (basic instant messaging) and you've got a package that could potentially disrupt the enterprise unified communications market. All you need is trust in Google's reliability, security and privacy.

I've been dabbling with Google Voice for the past four months or so and I have to say that I love it. My voicemails are e-mailed to me, transcribed. True, the transcriptions are far from accurate, but they get the gist -- enough to know if the voicemail needs to be returned immediately or not. The VoIP service also offers many other features that I enjoy ... like sending a text message or making a phone call from my computer.

The latter requires that Voice initiate the call, then sends it to my phone of choice. However, Voice will soon be a full softphone, able to make calls to another desktop, a POTs line or to/from a mobile phone. Google bought Gizmo5 in November. Google Voice will eventually have that service's Skype-like abilities to route calls between PCs or between other phone numbers. It will allow a mobile phone to initiate a VoIP call, too. Gizmo5 has stopped taking on new customers for the time being, but current customers can already use the service with Voice.

Voice is most famous for being able to ring multiple forwarded phone lines at once, but you can also record phone calls, switch from one phone to another during a call, dozens of other goodies.

It is unclear exactly where Wave will fit in -- Google hasn't yet spilled the beans on that. Wave is built on instant messaging technology (the XMPP protocol) -- it turns IMs into multimedia-supporting, persistent conversations ... much like stitching instant messages with standard e-mail with other apps (like calendar, maps or documents). Google has said that it plans to roll out an enterprise version of Wave, too. It seems likely that Google will somehow marry Wave into Gmail, which would then become part of Apps.

Given that Google currently sells the enterprise edition of Apps for $50/seat per year, we can be certain that enterprise Voice will be affordable too, especially when compared to Microsoft OCS, Cisco's UC wares, or even IBM's attempt at turning Lotus into a low-cost cloud option.

While the world loves to compare Google and Microsoft ad nauseam, it's interesting to note (pun intended) how IBM plans to compete with Google Apps. IBM offers Lotuslive.com, which is based on Notes at $9.99/seat per month ($120/year), with other communications applications such as Web conferencing, available a la carte. This is not to be confused with IBM's Lotus Symphony, a desktop FOSS suite based on OpenOffice.org that competes with Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Users download Symphony. It gives them a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software, but it is not a cloud app.

Enterprise-class Google Voice isn't a completely original idea. The service would put Google in compeition with its business partners like OnState Communications. In July, OnState announced that its cloud-based virtual call center and PBX fully support Google Voice. It charges $49.95 per month, per user.

The Google Voice service I have is free, except for the privacy that I give up to use it. Google Voice is associated with my Google account, and Google keeps track of my account's every call, every message as well as tracking my search terms and maps -- and the news articles I've read. I can, however, watch what Google is watching on me from the Google Privacy Dashboard. Every time I visit that dashboard it reminds me to mix up my Web activities between Google, Bing, Yahoo and other Google alternatives.

In any case, Google promises that the paid version of Apps gives its buyers all the control over their privacy.

So it comes down to a matter of trust. If you trust Google's privacy policy, and you trust that Google's service won't falter, leave your users stranded, or open you up to invaders from Asia, Apps + Voice may become an affordable contender for your enterprise VoIP needs in 2010.

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