Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tech Talk: Google Voice Debate

Google Voice. In a way it looks like the next big thing in phone technology. It's supposed to become available to the public in a few weeks (you can check updates and progress here) and when it does, you will be able to use it to send SMS messages, record phone calls with the push of a button, read voice mails as text, and save everything forever. It also allows you to forward calls to one phone number, all your phones, or just some of your phone numbers based on who's calling. For now you have to forward your number(s) and deal with having anyone call your new number if you want to use Google Voice, but eventually they hope to allow people to port their numbers in directly if they wish.

It sounds amazing and it's all free, but before we go skipping through the park chewing gummy bears, there's definite conflict. For starters, when Google released a Google Voice iPhone app to Apple and it was rejected (the details here). The FCC is debating over what to do and we have yet to see that play out, but even if Google does win the battle and get to flex its muscles and threaten what profit means for carriers like AT&T, then what will happen to the people who use the program?

This could be one of Google's benevolent loss leaders that lays groundwork for establishing themselves in the mobile sector and helps them become more powerful in the future, but it's quite possible that Google will figure out how to monetize programs like this. One New York Times analyst pointed out that this could mean upselling an advanced version of the product (Chris Anderson's Free, anyone?) or using this as a platform for creating selling, targeting, and monetizing advertisements. Google always says, "Trust us." I hope we can.

In case your eyes are glazed, here's a solid music recommendation to melt the glaze away. Check out Flunk, a group best enjoyed while relaxing in a dark room. They've been around almost a decade but their Portishead-like sound will probably be worthy of chill Buddha Bar type mixes for decades to come.

Flunk - "Blind My Mind"