Leader: Google - good luck

It's not going to be easy to be the best at IM

It's not going to be easy to be the best at IM

Today's launch of Google's new IM and voice over IP client, Google Talk, may not have been a shocker (as rumours circulated earlier this week) but it holds more significance than the usual product rollout, especially for something as admittedly pedestrian (these days) as text and voice chat.

This week - with Google Talk and the new desktop search tool beta - the Silicon Valley search giant has made two more steps towards dominating our online experience, the true goal of the portal.

So far Google has done an impressive job of reinventing search and the concept of a web portal, after so many failed with it in the mid- to late-1990s. From the beginning Google took the simple, clean approach to its search home page, a relief from the crowded, ad-filled pages of many of its predecessors. And the desktop search tool is already getting good reviews.

But it does need to be careful. What sets one portal apart from another is simply quality - the one way to reliably convince users to come back to your site (and not all the others that do the same thing) again and again.

So this publication took note when one analyst said "Google Talk does not seem to 'pull a Google' as I like to call it in rewriting what we expect from an application or service".

Google is coming from behind in this space with mature products out from AOL, MSN, Yahoo! and of course the big boy Skype, which had its own IM announcement today. It's opening up its code so developers can add Skype IM to their websites and other software such as games - a move company co-founder Janus Friis told silicon.com was motivated by numerous requests for integration from Skype users and third-party software makers. "We think it's good to shake it up," Friis said.

It's not going to be easy to keep up with mover-and-shaker Skype, probably the only internet brand that can compete with Google on glamour right now. (Did you catch the photos of Friis and co-founder Niklas Zennström on the glossy pages of this month's Vanity Fair?). Of course, the launch of Google Talk does not eliminate the much-talked-about possibility of Google buying Skype. There have indeed been stranger bedfellows.

Even if Google and Skype were to join forces, the other competitors in this area are none too shabby. They are the ones that survived the first portal culling.

Judging from prior performance, we can only assume Google's up to the task. As inveterate Google users (which journalists can say they aren't?), we wish it luck.