Google has launched its latest service, "Google Voice," a tool to help users manage voice communication more efficiently, the search engine leader said in a Google blog post announcing its release.
Apparently, the software "converts" voicemail into text messages or Emails so that users can read them - instead of listening. Google Voice makes use of technology from Grand Central Communications - a firm that it acquired back in 2007. The service is currently limited to users of Grand Central in the US. For US users, Google Voice gives an option to use a single Google number that can route incoming calls to home, office, and other numbers.
Domestic calls will be free but international calls will require users to set up a Google Checkout account. Calls to landlines in the UK will cost 2 cents per minute. EBay's Skype offers free domestic and international calls made over the Internet from one computer to another, but there is a charge to landlines and mobile phones.
Google does not view the service as a threat to Skype or other telecom companies any more than its Google Talk offering, which lets users chat over the internet for free.
"This is about allowing your existing phone to work better," said Craig Walker, now group product manager for real time communications at Google and co-founder of Grand Central. "It's not that we are replacing your phone, we are giving [it] the ability to work better.''
Google Voice also allows all voice messages to be turned into text that will then be sent either through an e-mail or an sms.
"Voicemail can be a pretty negative experience for a lot of people," said Walker. "Now it's about putting the user in control. We will transcribe voicemails and convert it into text and put it in your inbox so that it's searchable and you will always have a record of that voicemail.
"Voicemail need no longer be the chore it has been in the past," he declared. Walker demonstrated its search capabilities by displaying the 1,000 or so voicemails he had accumulated while testing the system over the past few months. By typing "pool man" in a search box, he located an old voicemail from December 2008. Returned results were in both text and audio form.
"I would never have been able to find that number. The phone company deletes everything for you after a couple of weeks and the scrap of paper I wrote the number on is long gone. This feature makes your voicemail a pretty powerful tool," said Walker.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said he viewed mobile as the next big opportunity. At the recent Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco, Schmidt said he believed mobile search revenues would over take those on a PC within a few years
"The fact of the matter is that mobile devices are going to be the majority of the way that people get information," he said.