Started by Jason, August 24, 2005, 04:07:00 PM
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QuoteGoogle to offer voice messaging Wednesday August 24, 9:23 AM EDT By Eric AuchardSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc. (GOOG) is set to offer on Wednesday its own instant message and Web-based phone calling system, joining a crowded field of established rivals in a nearly decade-old computer communications craze.The world leader in Internet search confirmed sketchy reports on Tuesday that it plans to add instant messaging together with Web-based phone calling to the growing menu of technology options it offers beyond simply trawling the Web.Google Talk is seeking to elbow its way in among four instant messaging Web communities that number more than 10 million users a piece, ranging from market leader AOL (TWX), with AIM and ICQ brands, to Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), Microsoft (MSFT) and two-year-old European Web chat phenomenon, Skype. "This is a missing piece in Google's larger strategy as they emerge to become a bigger Internet media player," said Greg Sterling, an analyst with the Kelsey Group who had been briefed by the company on its Google Talk strategy.A trial version, in English only initially, can be found at http://www.google.com/talk/. Users need to have a Google Gmail account. The computer-to-computer Web calling software requires speakers and a microphone, or a computer-ready headset.The service fits within the Google Sidebar, another service the company introduced this week which is designed to help it branch out beyond pure search to help users manage e-mail, instant messages, news headlines and music.The basic, uncluttered design of Google Talk conceals subtle differences with some jazzier features of rivals. "When instant messaging is like Las Vegas, with all kinds of advertising banners, it's very distracting," Sterling said.Seeking to turn its outsider status into a strength, Google said its Talk service would allow users to communicate with other open systems such as Trillian, Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL) iChat and a system under test at EarthLink (ELNK).AIM, Yahoo, Microsoft and Skype are closed networks that offer selective access to only certain other IM systems."Now we have another evangelist in the ranks," Tom Hsieh, EarthLink's director of voice products, said of Google joining EarthLink's campaign to open up previously closed IM networks.Because the text and phone instant-messaging requires the user to sign up first for a Gmail account, Google is looking to significantly expand the base of the e-mail program that has only been available through referrals by friends to date."If it's successful it will drive Gmail adoption," Georges Harik, product management director for Google Talk said in an interview. "More than e-mail, Google Talk is a viral application. You have to be on the system," he said.In order to verify the identity of new Gmail users, Google sends new subscribers a sign-up link in the form of a mobile phone text message to whatever telephone they provide.Analysts and Web pundits have speculated that the instant messaging service could form the underpinning for a push by Google into both mobile phone services and video search.Future versions are likely to allow users to call from computers to standard telephones or vice versa, paralleling services such as SkypeOut, a rival computer to phone service."It seems reasonable," Harik said. "I can't really comment" on future Google products, he said.The combined computer text and voice-calling service puts Google into head-to-head competition with a service popularized by Skype, which has attracted 51 million unique users, half of them in Europe and the rest scattered around the globe.America Online, with its AIM and ICQ brands, counts more than 40 million IM users in the United States alone. Yahoo has around 20 million and Microsoft's MSN Messenger numbers some 14 million users, according to recent comScore Media Metrix data.