google steps into online communications arena

Google is increasing its arsenal of internet products by introducing Google Talk – an internet communication tool suite. Google Talk comprises of two main features – an instant messenger/chat facility and a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocal) internet telephony service.

Instant Messaging
The instant messenger service is similar to offerings from major competitors MSN and Yahoo.
Unlike other Google products (such as the mouse-draggable map in Google Maps) there are no major interface enhancements beyond what is already available.
However, unlike MSN and Yahoo, it does use the open source Jabber platform rather than its own proprietary software. This means the chat network can extend far beyond those just using Google Talk.
It will be interesting to see how Google ties an instant messenger service up with the rest of its software, ie. a link with the Picasa photo management suite would allow users to send and chat about photos.

Internet Telephony
As well as allowing typed missives to be sent, Google Talk also allows you to connect up a microphone and speaker and actually talk. The system, known as VoIP, is to telecommunications what the peer-to-peer networks are to the music business – a thorn in the side of the business model. By using a PC as a phone, a Google Talk user can speak for free to another Google Talk user anywhere in the world. Skype is the current market leader with over 50 million subscribers. Google has it firmly in its sights.

Towards the Google operating system
Many in the industry feel that Google is moving from being a website (a search engine) towards being a fully fledged operating system. Indeed, Google has also this month updated its desktop application, adding more relevant information and increased security. A canny move given that Microsoft has made no bones about its intentions to integrate search heavily into its new Vista operating system. Rather than cracking open a browser and going to www.google.com, Microsoft offers a path of less resistance by prompting searches to www.msn.com from the minute you switch on your PC. Google could trump the move if its core services and communications platform are more widely adopted.

Why does Google need more finance?
Yet another development this month (do the engineers get no summer vacation?) sees Google trying to secure an estimated £4 billion through a public offering a year after the search giant first floated. Here the waters muddy and there is no consensus over why Google needs the extra cash. Its rapid pace of software development is not making a dent on its huge cash reserves. Perhaps Google is attempting what other media giants like Rupert Murdoch did with satellite TV and AOL has done as an ISP – provide the delivery platform for its content. There has been talk of Google setting up a Wi-Fi network. Could this be offered for free, recouping the set-up spend through advertising?

Further links:
Google’s Grand Ambitions (Business Week)
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_36/b3949050_mz011.htm

New Google Talk Offers Instant Messaging & Voice Chat (Searchenginewatch)
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3529566

Review: New Google tools! What’s the plan? (IHT)
http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/08/26/business/ptpogue27.php

Sidebar Takes Center Stage in New Google Desktop Search (Marketing Vox)
http://www.marketingvox.com/archives/2005/08/22/sidebar_takes_center_stage_in_new_google_desktop_search/index.php

Daryl Pereira, Account Manager

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