Saturday, September 25, 2010

Google Adds Another Brick to Its Communications Monolith

Google's latest addition to its communications lineup is a voice-calling feature that lets people call any number in the U.S. or Canada for free from their Gmail accounts. The familiar Gmail interface is likely to draw in consumers in larger numbers than Google Voice, which has a steeper learning curve, suggested Boston University business professor N. Venkatraman.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has rolled out a new service that allows Gmail account holders to make voice calls  to any traditional phone number from their Gmail account. It will require the installation of a voice and video plug-in, but users won't need to have a special phone number assigned to them.

Google already has a similar service -- Google Voice -- that lets users make and receive mobile phone calls in the U.S. and Canada for free, and internationally at relatively cheap rates.

This new service targets people and businesses that want to make calls from their desktop -- or who find themselves without good phone reception, Google said.

The Google Experience

Offering different options for communication has become Google's modus operandi.

"Google wants to make itself as much of a household name as possible," Laura DiDio, principal of ITIC, told the E-Commerce Times. "It is already the de facto go-to search engine, and it has productivity applications such as Google Docs."

With offerings such as Voice and Gmail calling, it is expanding even further.

"What they are trying to do is embed themselves with the consumer and then move onto the corporate environment," DiDio said.

No one uses laptops or computers just for work or just for pleasure anymore, she noted. Usually, they are all purpose machines.

"If Google can get consumers to use this, I think they believe it will make inroads into the corporate community too," predicted DiDio.

This all-encompassing approach means Google doesn't have any one particular vendor in mind for competition -- such as Skype, she said. "I think they are throwing down the gauntlet to all of the players in the communication market."

Unified Communications

While Google's new service will clearly compete with Skype, Google is most likely eyeing the entire unified communications space with this offering, N. Venkatraman, a business professor at Boston University, told the E-Commerce Times.

"That is where Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is with Sharepoint, and Google clearly wants to be there," he said. The Gmail-based phone functionality has the added appeal of pushing Google Voice further into the market.

Google might even buy Skype if the price is right, Venkatraman speculated.

"Not many have subscribed to Google Voice -- in large part, because they are unclear as to how it works," he noted. Gmail, though, anybody can understand.

Small Business

If and when the Gmail service does wend its way into the corporate sector, it will no doubt go through small businesses. That has been Google's forte, said Fran Powell, SVP and managing director of interactive with Wahlstrom.

These services add a level of sophistication and efficiency to Google's small business offerings. This means Google will continue to solidify SMB loyalty and drive interest in its advertising products -- "a fruitful end benefit," Powell told the E-Commerce Times.

While increased ad revenues from more-engaged small businesses may be a side benefit, Venkatraman doesn't think that is Google's main financial goal for the service.

"I see Google continuing to morph away from advertising based on search to monetizing different logics of interactions and collaboration," he said.

Original Source

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New test build of Windows 7 SP1 goes to select Microsoft partners

Microsoft has released a beta refresh of its Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack (SP) 1 to selected PC and Technology Adoption Program (TAP) partners, company officials confirmed on August 30.

Microsoft made the refresh build — the build number of which is said to be Build No. 7601.17077 — available to a select group of testers on August 27. There’s no word (so far) on whether there is anything new in that refresh.

“A private interim release went out Friday as part of our normal feedback loop with a small  group of our testers – our TAP and OEMs,” a company spokesperson told me via e-mail when I asked about the refresh.

The spokesperson said Microsoft would not comment on whether the company will release to the public another interim SP1 build before the first service pack is released to manufacturing. Microsoft officials said earlier this summer that the company is planning to deliver the final SP1 code in the first half of 2011, and the spokesperson said on August 30 that Microsoft is still on track with that stated release date.

Many Microsoft watchers, partners and customers had been expecting Microsoft to deliver the final SP1 bits before the end of calendar 2010. Microsoft officials have stressed that the client version of SP1 does not include any new features or funcitonality. (Windows 7 SP1 includes a few pieces of functionality that Microsoft hasn’t made available via Windows Update or through various security patches. Company officials said these are  “enhancements,” rather than new features.These “enhancements” include things such as support for more third-party federation services; improved HDMI audio device support; and XPS printing fixes.)

The server version of SP1 includes two new virtualization-focused features: RemoteFX and a dynamic-memory adjustor for Hyper-V. I’ve heard speculation that the server version of SP1 is what’s holding back the delivery of the client version, but have not heard this from any Microsoft officials.

Microsoft released a public beta of SP1 in mid-July.

Microsoft officials have been adamant that consumers and business customers don’t need to wait for SP1 to deploy Windows 7 and/or Windows Server 2008 R2. Still, a number of business customers use the release of SP1 as a milestone in terms of planning their deployments of a new operating system.