Why Voice Still Matters

By BroadVision on August 27, 2010

imageIntergrating old stuff into new stuff, and why that makes sense

Earlier this week, Google surprised the social media market with a small but important tweak to their Voice service. Now you can make phone calls – to real numbers, to real phones — directly from your Google email panel, without having to sign into the Google Voice environment. On the surface, this sounds ho-hum, especially if you are a Skype user and familiar with the Skype Out service. But this is not an innovation in technology, but an innovation in user design whose time has finally come. More and more, folks in the 2.0 world are beginning to understand that voice matters. And integrating voice into other environments is something we’re going to see a lot more of. Why:

*Despite our increasing attachment to Web 2.0 tools, our default position in the workplace is 1.0. Google may understand this phenomenon better than any other company, but Microsoft got there first. For most people in the workplace, their email panel is the homepage. By integrating other tools — both old tools like voice and newer stuff from the Web 2.0 toolkit — companies like Google are helping people to integrate various modes of communication into a single user environment. They are not alone — it’s the next wave of innovation in the world of enterprise social networking — but Google is in a position to educate the market about the potential for a new default page.

*By integrating the older tools with the newer tools, companies like Google are helping people to more easily navigate the worlds the live in. I have some first-hand knowledge of this. In 2007-2008, I worked as a consultant to the team at Ribbit (later acquired by BT), a Web-based telco company that introduced a service similar to Google Voice. We codenamed the service Amphibian, understanding that its great potential value was in helping people to bridge the physical world of voice with the virtual world of Web-based services. It’s safe to argue that we are all amphibian today, and in the integration of the old with the new will continue to help us.

*By integrating the older tools with the newer tools, companies like Google are helping to create new uses for the older tools. This will become more apparent as technology vendors in the “enterprise 2.0” market begin integrating email, IM, and voice in more truly social environments. When email, IM, and voice become data objects that can more easily be shared and retrieved in social environments, they will not just become 2.0; they will have greater value. One of the big raps against voicemal and email is that they tend to get buried in private siloes, forcing the individual to keep toiling for others everytime there’s a request for information trapped in those siloes.  By making it easier to share this information, in environments where the info can be more easily retrieved — technology vendors are aiming to make older tools more useful.

Google is certainly not alone in chasing this opportunity, but as the owner of one of the world’s largest default pages, it will certainly do its part to educate the market.