Google Offering Voice App To Businesses

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The search engine company will release a version of Google Voice for businesses and roll out Google Wave to all users who want it,

Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard said the company will release a version of Google Voice for businesses, roll out Google Wave to all users who want it and deliver as many as 200 small features to Google Apps in 2010.

Google Apps is a suite of Web-based collaboration applications Google hosts on its servers and provisions to users for free and in a premier edition for $50 (£32) per user per year. More than 2 million business customers use the suite of hosted Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites and other apps.

Google expects to redouble its efforts to combat Microsoft and IBM, whose on-premises collaboration software sit on the servers of hundreds of millions of enterprise customers. Microsoft and IBM moved aggressively against Google Apps in 2009 by rolling out their own collaboration apps that leverage the Web-based cloud computing model.

Girouard told eWEEK that his team added 100 discrete features to the Google Apps suite in 2009, and he expects this number to double in 2010, noting, “There will be a steady stream of new capabilities brought to the cloud.”

One not-so-discrete launch will be an enterprise version of the Google Voice phone management application for businesses.

Google Voice, used by more than 1.4 million users in the United States, routes calls to users’ home, work and mobile phones using a special number assigned by Google.

The free app doesn’t currently connect calls from one PC to another, or between PCs and phones, or phones and phones. However, Google acquired Gizmo5, whose softphone technology works like the popular Skype VOIP app, connecting calls from PCs to PCs and from PCs to phones. Google plans to add these direct-calling capabilities to Google Voice.

Google Voice offered as part of Google Apps could be a powerful combination for businesses in the market for a UCC (unified communications and collaboration) suite, particularly at a time when companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for UCC from Microsoft or IBM.

Girouard is particularly excited about the potential marriage of Google Apps with mobile technologies in 2010, not just through smartphones such as the Google Android-based Nexus One, but through the emergence of the Google Chrome Operating System and Chrome Web browser on netbooks. He added:

“We are really focusing on the capability to deliver a better and better experience to end users across all applications on mobile devices and also through our Chrome browser and eventually Chrome PS. We’re not just a few apps here; we’re working on the entire stack.”

It is likely Google Apps and Chrome will come integrated on netbooks based on Google Chrome. Girouard expects solid sales of these machines could provide a considerable boost to Google Apps use. However, because Chrome OS netbooks aren’t expected until late 2010, the impact of Chrome OS on Google Apps adoption won’t be clear until 2011.

Finally, Girouard said Google will release Google Wave, the company’s real-time collaboration platform, for all consumers and businesses in 2010. Google, which currently offers the open-source Wave platform by invitation only, has rolled the platform out to more than 1 million users.

Wave lets users communicate in via instant messaging, and enables multiuser document editing and social networking all in real time on one user interface. As such, it is a sort of lively incarnation of many of the Google Apps programs.

Girouard said parts of Wave will show up in other Google products, but it is unclear how this will take shape. For example, Wave and Gmail may be integrated. Wave could easily leverage the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programs in Google Docs, which is looking more and more like a cloud storage solution.

“We are trying to learn and see what sort of use cases evolve from it and how it changes,” Girouard explained, before cautioning: “It’s not nearly at the level of understanding and readiness of the core Google Apps services.”

Google’s enterprise group has been fairly quiet early in 2010, but the Apps team is showing signs of a breakout.

Reports emerged that Google will soon expand its Google’s Solutions Marketplace to let third-party developers sell software that hooks into its collaboration applications. The Google Apps team added more enterprise controls for mobile phone users on 4 Feb.

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