Last week Tom Krazit reported for CNET that Google has confirmed its purchase of Gizmo5. This was confirmed on the official Google Voice blog the same day. The old Gizmo Project website (www.gizmoproject.com) now directs to Google (www.google.com/gizmo5) and new memberships have been temporarily suspended. According to Tom’s article:

Gizmo5 is a Web-based VoIP client that lets you make phone calls over the Internet, similar to programs like Skype. It’s based, however, on an open standard called SIP that fits a little better into Google’s worldview, rather than Skype’s internally-developed system.

Gizmo5 works on both PCs and mobile phones, and the technology will likely be used in some way to enhance Google Voice. Google Voice isn’t a VoIP client; it lets you use a single number to ring multiple phones and get voice mails transcribed into e-mail, but it does that over existing phone networks.

While detailed implications of this purchase are not available, it seems reasonable to speculate (especially given the fact that this announcement was shared on the “Google Voice” blog) that we’ll see some VoIP (Skype-like) calling features as well as videoconferencing capabilities added to the menu of communication options available for Google Voice users in the not-too-distant future.

AT&T wasn’t ready for or initially supportive of VoIP calls with the iPhone, and Apple has yet to approve the Google Voice iPhone application. According to the August 21st Reuters article, “Google Voice App Rejection: AT&T Blames, Apple Denies, Google Hides:”

AT&T and Apple told the FCC that they did have an agreement that Apple would not help iPhone owners use VOIP calling services like Skype on the iPhone. VOIP calls use the data, rather than the voice plan, and would cut into the companies’ profits. Thus, Apple and AT&T agreed to cripple the Skype iPhone app so it would only work when the iPhone used a Wi-Fi connection. The companies say they also agree not to let in apps that stream live television, which AT&T says would strain its network.

Given these historic reactions by AT&T as well as Apple, it seems reasonable to expect neither company will like the new developments which follow the Google acquisition of Gizmo5 either. Consumer responses, however, may differ markedly from these corporate reactions.

John C. Dvorak, writing for PC Magazine today, is all smiles for the moves we see Google making in the telecommunications world:

The notion of the IP routed free phone call has been openly discussed for a decade or more. You have to wonder if Google is the only company out there that is actually on the ball. It’s as if they have zero competition in the ideas department. Apple has a lock on handsome designs and the cool factor, and Microsoft has a lock on the mainstream OS, because it understands the concept of legacy computing. But who is as aggressive as Google?

Yahoo might have been able to create such a service, but the company lost its way when it went Hollywood under Terry Semel, and it has failed to reset itself. Yahoo could have done Google Voice.

Once it dawns on everyone what Google has really done here, you can be sure mediocre clones from companies like Microsoft will suddenly appear. But those products will almost certainly be polluted with notions like “free phone calls for $10 a month!” and other idiocies.

Once again Google has managed to make other tech companies look foolish. It’s a recurring theme.

“Kirk to Enterprise. One to beam up!”

Star Trek re-enactor

Hat tip to my Mom for letting me know about the Gizmo5 acquisition by Google. 🙂

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