Jul 5, 2010
There’s a move afoot by cost-conscious communications users to woo Google into developing a desktop VoIP client for Google Voice. Indeed, a formal petition has been launched at giveusagvdesktop.com to encourage the search engine giant to launch a free tool that would let them use Google Voice on the desktop.
In case you aren’t familiar with Google Voice, it’s a fledgling competitor to virtual receptionists, well, kind of. Google Voice is a web-based platform for managing your communications. Google introduced its service that offers one number to ring all your phones, voicemail that works like e-mail, free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, low-priced international calls, among other features, about a year ago. At first, it was only open by invitation to people looking for a virtual office alternative. Now it’s open to anyone and everyone. And the more than one million Google Voice users want more.
“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made with Google Voice over the last few years, and we’re still just scratching the surface of what’s possible when you combine your regular phone service with the latest web technology,” explain Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet, Google Voice Product Managers. “It’s even more amazing to think about how far communication has come over the last couple hundred years.”
Here’s how it works: Decide if you want to use the full version of Google Voice with a brand new phone number, or add some Google Voice features, like voice mail, to your existing mobile phone number. If you choose a new number, you can search for numbers via area code. No, Google doesn’t offer 800, 888 or 866 numbers. So this wouldn’t help you if that’s what you are looking for. But if you want a local New York number, or a local number in any other zip code, this could be a free alternative to a virtual office.
Once you pick a number that meets your needs, you’ll need to verify at least one phone to forward calls to. Then, when someone calls your new Google number, it will ring to wherever you’ve forwarded it. With Google Voice, you can use one number to manage all your phones because the number is tied to you rather than to your location. You also get voicemail transcription, and you can customize your callers’ experience with custom greetings. You can even decide which of your phones ring based on who’s calling. And you can get an alert via text messaging when you have a new message.
Will this kill the virtual PBX industry? I don’t think so. At least not in its current iteration. But it’s certainly possible that Google could dive deeper into this area. There are already some cool features, as you’ve seen. Perhaps the coolest feature is that it’s free. Granted, you get much more from a RingCentral or a Phone.com. There’s really no comparison at this point to a traditional virtual office or virtual receptionist provider. But if you need a free solution where you don’t have to give out your phone number, yet it will ring to your devices, you can’t beat the price of Google Voice.