The Latest on Google Voice and VoIP

The corporate giant finally embraces the oft-neglected service

It’s been about six weeks since Google Cloud Next 2018, the company’s annual tech conference where they roll out new designs and plans for the coming year. Enough time has passed to let the announcements and the dust they kicked up settle, so now it’s time for some analysis.

As big and influential as Google is, many of the headlines the conference made this year (and typically makes) are notable for the public, but one piece to come out of the San Francisco-based event of note to VoIP is the release of an enterprise version of Google Voice for G Suite.

Despite the splash, tech-industry insiders have been anticipating this move for quite some time, as noted in this January 2017 article about Google Voice updates.

Google Voice first launched in 2009, and while the service garnered over a million downloads that year, it didn’t make the impression that Google clearly was hoping for. After a few years maintenance, Google Voice essentially went ignored from 2011 until early 2017, when the company released improvements and additions to the product.

Google Cloud Next 2018 may have been the culmination of that track, as Google Voice is now included in the popular G Suite software that is the 2nd most popular business toolkit in America (behind Microsoft).

Google Voice as a standalone is still free, which means that its inclusion in G Suite will be a large-scale PSA about its existence. Even though many people will be exposed to the VoIP market through Google Voice, and even though the service is both adding additional machine learning-based features and remains free, the new iteration will not snap up all of the people being exposed to VoIP.

For as powerful and capable Google is, the company’s reach has exceeded its grasp on multiple occasions in the past half-decade. G Suite is powered by just a few of its features like Google Drive, Google Docs, and Gmail, while the others are dragged along for the ride despite little fanfare or usage. Google+, Google Sites, and Google Hangouts have all been mercilessly swallowed by the cultural abyss.

The $15-billion market for business productivity tools has been equally unkind to Google: they hold just $1.3 billion of the market (despite several years of calculated development) compared to Microsoft’s $13.8-billion control. Google has continued to sink resources into this competition however, and July’s announcements indicate there is no end in sight.

Workplace productivity is a complex, shifting market with data to support multiple narratives. For example, there are 3 million American businesses paying for G Suite, and that number is growing significantly with each passing year (in a small sample size). However, there are stats to indicate that despite Google’s growth, Microsoft’s dominance is secure; the Reuters article linked above notes this by saying,
«Among companies listed on the broader S&P 1500 index, 11.5 percent moved to Office 365 in the last two years, according to an email records review by investment firm Winton Group Ltd. That outpaced G Suite, which saw 6.8 percent of those firms come its way, including technology, industrial, entertainment and retail companies.»

Perhaps both are growing because the overall pool of customers is growing, due to increased awareness, more need for these products, or any plethora of reasons. What is clear is that G Suite is cheaper than Microsoft’s options, but it’s still lagging far behind despite that seeming advantage.

The same could very well turn out to be true for the VoIP market. If Google Voice remains free, it will no doubt snatch up many new customers hearing about VoIP for the first time, but the historical VoIP companies will get their share of new customers too.

Google is the tech-savvy new entrant into the market, but many customers and businesses, upon seeing the capability of virtual phone systems, will seek out the experts and the places that have been cultivating and improving the technology for decades the same way businesses are migrating to and sticking with Microsoft.

One thing is for sure, VoIP and telecommunications are about to get quite the infusion of new eyeballs in the coming year, and even though the eyeballs come on Google’s prompting, that means opportunity for dozens of companies.

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