This week Google launched Google voice. It’s an outgrowth of a service it acquired last year, Grand Central, that gives you one number for all your telephone needs. When people call this number, all the phones you program into the system are called simultaneously. So no matter where you are, you can be reached on the phone and of course even better, you only have one number to give out.
What makes this VERY interesting is not the system, but that Google is making it FREE.
Current services on the market such as Onebox from J2 Global, Gotvmail, Virtual PBX and Ring Central and Skype offering various degrees of functionality to help you better manage how you receive phone calls and the annoying voice mails that come with them.
However, Google Voice, offers much more than many of them (listening to voice mail as its being left and deciding whether to answer or not) and its for free.
One difference between Google Voice and many of the other services, is that Google Voice does not give you one number with extensions, that you could use with a multi-person company. Google Voice is ideal for the solo entrepreneur who solo professionals who wants to manage one single telephone line.
In the future Google could offer a “business” version to enable account management and multiple phone numbers for one company.
How does this affect your business?
Google is offering a number of services for free, including Google Docs which competes with Microsoft Office Live Workspace (also free), Cisco’s Webex WebOffice (fee), HyperOffice (fee) and dozens of other file sharing and collaboration services.
The question you need to ask, is should you (can you) trust your business with Google. My answer is yes. But here’s some more information to help you make your own decision.
Many executives have told me that Google is great at engineering, but will have challenges growing any viable business services beyond its free services because it can’t (or won’t) offer the level of support that businesses demand.
When there is a problem affecting a business service, your business customers are going to want and demand that they can call or email you and have you (the vendor providing) providing support real quick.
Google’s response to this (my guess) would be that their products are so simple to use that just about anyone can use the product right out of the box. In fairness, some products might require a bit of technical aptitude.
Intuit has this, “should be easy enough right out of the box policy”, for the most part. The difference is that Intuit’s products, well QuickBooks, are not only very easy to use but also come with a range of support options.
Google has thousands (or more) of happy Google Apps customers (Google apps is the corporate email service) and has various other acquired fee based services such as its security service, acquired from Postini.
For the free services, such as Google Voice, try out (right now its only for existing customers) and see how you like it. I personally think, there’s nothing wrong with free as long as it works well. People say you get what you pay for, but I’ve used many free products, including Skype for years and they work quite, quite well.