Last week Google launched its latest service, Google Voice, a Voice Over IP application that is already being seen as serious competition to Skype. The downloadable Google Voice application is now available for BlackBerry handsets, as well as smartphones powered by Google’s own Android operating system. Today, BusinessWeek ran an article that suggests that this could not only heat up the VOIP war for mobile phones, but place Google in a position to take on unified communications software vendors, such as Cisco Systems and Microsoft – as those companies produce software that ties together companies’ phone and e-mail systems.
Google has had a good year indeed. It was only about 10 months ago that I first wrote about Google Chrome, the Web browser the company had developed, and then soon after about the Google Android operating system for mobile phones. Now Chrome could be the next big desktop operating system, and could give Microsoft competition in a way that Linux and the various Mac operating systems never did.
But all this reminds me of a couple things, namely that it was a decade ago that Microsoft was under fire in the United States and Europe for being a monopoly. And as I’ve discussed recently, some Senators are hot under the collar when it comes to mobile carriers and exclusive deals. So is now a good time for Google to be bringing out all the big guns?
The other interesting point is that the launch of Google Voice comes out at a time when Skype is in a quiet period, with an IPO on the horizon. That company was a successful startup, and was eventually bought by online auction giant eBay (which also owns PayPal), and will soon be spun off in what could ironically be one of the biggest IPOs since Google went public.
So what does all this mean for business users right now? Not much, except that Skype could soon have some serious competition in the VOIP front. More importantly, AT&T and Apple will need to regroup to figure out how to better crack the nut that is VOIP. Using the Internet to make affordable international calls, and essentially free domestic calls is going to be ever more popular. Of course, someone needs to explain to me where the revenue stream exists with free calls over the Internet.
As with many other showdowns that have come out in the world of Internet-based technology, the victor may win the war, but still lose because there isn’t enough revenue. And as we all know wars don’t come cheap.
Mobile Web Users Complete Less Tasks
Many consumers, including small- and medium-sized business users, no doubt hear about what you can do on a smartphone. With commercials for the iPhone and T-Mobile G1 (among others) promising all the things you can do thanks to the latest apps, many run out and buy the phones. The problem is that the number of tasks actually completed on handsets fall way behind those of the PC, in part because so much of what needs to be done requires the mobile Web, rather than just apps.
According to a new report from research firm Nielsen Norman Group, in usability studies conducted in the U.S. and the UK, it was found that just 59 percent of users completed tasks with the mobile Internet, as opposed to about 80 percent who accessed the Internet on a regular PC.
Several factors were cited:
- Small screens made it harder for users to see all the options available at one time
- Awkward input, including ability to type made the text entry slow and/or error prone, even on phones with QWERTY keypads. Using a GUI widget was difficult without a mouse
- Mis-designed Web sties was another issue, and there needs to be a more uniform way to see WAP sites
The latter problem remains the biggest hurdle, and the study found that better design of mobile Web sites could help bridge the gap and make it easier for users. Of course the move to app-based tasks could also make it easier, especially given that these are designed specifically for mobile handsets.