Google Mum on VoIP Rumors

A job listing on Google’s Web site seeking a “strategic negotiator” to helpprovide a “global backbone network” has spurredspeculation that the search engine giant is planning to enter the VoIP(voice over Internet protocol) market.

Also fueling the rumor were comments from Julian Hewitt, a senior partner atOvum, an analyst firm in the UK.

“Google are the number one brand on the Internet and I believe that thevoice over [Internet protocol] technology will become a standard addition to Internetcomponents,” Hewitt told The Times of London, which first reported the story.

Mixed Feelings

Google will not comment on the rumor, and analysts disagreed on whether themove was likely.

“I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a nice way for them to expand what they’realready doing,” Kate Griffin, senior analyst at Yankee Group, toldTechNewsWorld. “It would keep key users on their site for longer.”

But Jupiter Media analyst Joe Laszlo disagreed. “It’s highly unlikely that Google will enter the VoIP telephony market,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Google might incorporate VoIP into its offerings toadvertisers, giving them the ability to set up phone calls with consumersvia a single click of a link, for example, or enabling voice chat easilythrough Google results pages. But I do not see much benefit to Google inpursuing VoIP in the sense of the services from Vonage, AT&T CallVantage andLingo and the like.”

Niche Service

On that point, Griffin did agree, saying that she imagined Google offering would be aniche service more like Skype than the full-service providers. Skype offersa download that allows two users who both have the program to talk to eachother through their computers using headphones. It is more akin to instantmessaging than to traditional phone service.

Laszlo said that the most successful VoIP services are like traditionalphone service in that they use a regular telephone and offer a monthlysubscription fee.

“There’s not real good extension of Google’s core business model into theVoIP telephony world. And I don’t see Google being excited about expandingin the direction of consumer subscription-based services,” he said.

The Yankee Group estimates that by 2008, 17.5 million households will usesome type of VoIP service. Now that number is at less than 1 percent ofhouseholds.

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