Toy Story 4:Google Voice

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Toy Story (1995) is a phenomenal movie on many levels. We can all relate to the core story – the bright shiny new toy makes us forget about our old favorites. But the bigger and sadder story was how Toy Story itself served notice to the Disney animators, Disney had animation nailed – how could some young upstart company (Pixar) threaten decades of imagineering? Dinney’s animators were on an industry pedestal – no studio had accomplished what they had in family animation full length features.

The mighty fell. For just over a decade, Disney fought it. It insisted animation was a human trait, then opted to obtain its own computer animation capability, and eventually caved and acquired Pixar in 2006.

My point: leadership is earned, not assumed. Disney’s leadership position was similar to Woody’s – both lost their crown when the technology shifted.

When I first started using Google Voice – I worked at a company that had a full blown UC solution. However, free Google Voice offered me several unique benefits that my enterprise UC solution could not match. Hard stuff too. Google Voice was innovative and gutsy. It mocked enterprise systems with its price, features, and simplicity. It was pretty clear Google was going to enter business communications/UC and retain/hold a leadership position as it was so far ahead.

But neither were true. The service remains as powerful, even more so, than it was, but the alternatives have not stood still.

Neglected Google Voice
Google launched its Google Voice service in March 2009. The service was similar to that offered by Grand Central before Google acquired it in 2007. It was innovative–it was a voice service that actually required users to have voice service from one or more other carriers to use it. Google Voice is an overlay service, intended to be the “public” number that programmatically routes calls to one or more telephone numbers or voice mail.

The service sent shock waves across the enterprise voice sector. It was only a consumer service, but Google had previously transitioned its consumer Gmail to Apps services aimed at business, government, and education sectors. It was presumed Google Voice for business would come next. That spelled trouble as Google Voice included many features and capabilities that enterprise voice vendors could not easily match–such as ad-hoc conferencing, ad-hoc call recording, and SMS integration.

Sure it had a few annoyances, but all products do–we live in an age of “ready, fire, aim,” and Google no doubt intended to improve the service. In fact, Google Voice was adopted by many business users despite its limitations, it was free, robust, and was expected to get better. But alas it is now August 2011, and although it has been integrated into Apps, it is still largely a consumer-grade service with few major improvements over the years.

During this period, enterprise communication solutions made huge improvements. Nearly all enterprise communication vendors now offer a single number solution with integrated applications for desktop and mobile productivity. The idea of using Google Voice for business users isn’t as compelling as it was before, although Google Voice still holds a number of capabilities rarely found elsewhere. For example, the Google Voice mobile client initiates calls without requiring a callback. Read the rest on NoJitter

Dave Michels