OK, I made "GoIP" up. Before a rumor gets started, there's no such thing as a Voice over IP offering (VoIP) from Google called GoIP (Googlevoice over IP). But that doesn't mean there won't be. This week, while at the Spring 2005 Voice on the Net conference (VON 2005), Google execs were apparently holding closed room discussions with several Net telephone service providers. The News.com report by Ben Charny characterized the activity as window shopping. News of Google's interest in Net telephony comes within 24 hours of AOL having announced at the same conference that it will be launching an Net telephone service within the month -- one that involves the connection of an ordinary handset (if you can really call it that) to a broadband connection.
So far, the major telcos have survived the VoIP revolution. But once Google, AOL, and other 800-lb. gorilla ISPs get into the game, my sense is that a rapid and total restructuring of the entire telecom industry -- an industry that already has had its fair share of restructuring -- is not far behind.
Lobbyists for the telecommunications industry will probably intensify their efforts to seek regulations and taxes to keep the massive erosion of their clients' businesses at bay, but such resistance is futile. Once VoIP has these big guns behind it, those lobby efforts could be easily neutralized by some equally financed counter-lobbying.
Resisting the weight of VoIP is like resisting gravity. In the course of doing my podcast interviews, where I must dial my guests into the recording, I have raked up hours and hours of VoIP minutes to make Skype-to-landline calls and it never ceases to amaze me at how slowly -- at the rate of 2.3 cents per minute for calls to the U.S. and the U.K. -- my Skype credit gets depleted. Skype-to-Skype calls are free. My wife was complaining the other day how our phone company (Verizon) sent out a note that it was jacking up the rates to call home to Europe, to which I said "just go use my podcasting studio and Skype them."
You know how your cell phone has the name of some cellco on it right now? Is it Verizon? Cingular? Sprint? Somewhere, in the not-too-distant future, our stationary and mobile handsets will have the colorful Google logo on them. In fact, it will be in a little exterior display and the logo will change by virtue of a Web services XML-RPC call when the logo on Google's home page changes. Wrapped into the handsets, the same way that Windows comes with technologies like MSN and a Media Player built-in (and people complain about it), will be direct access to all of Google's many online services from search to blogging to photosharing to shopping to e-mail to a music sales. Oh yeah, and voice and video calls. That day will come and it'll probably be sooner than you think.