Google's latest move to become a bigger player in the communications space also no longer requires people to pick a phone number to use the service. Essentially, the service remains unchanged, but now allows users to take advantage of Google Voice's voicemail transcription service.
To use the voicemail feature previously, users had to adopt a new phone number. Now, Google designed a way to link its voicemail service to existing mobile phone numbers in an effort to spur adoption.
Google says people can now use their existing mobile phone number with some of the Google Voice services, such as online voicemail, automated text transcripts and custom voicemail greetings tailored to the caller.
When the service first launched, it required those with an invite to pick a phone number that could link to their mobile, home, and work numbers in various specified situations. The good thing is that the number is not tied to a geographic location or handset. A Web interface allows the user to manage the service through a dashboard.
Those who sign up for Google Voice with their existing number get online, searchable voicemail; free automated voicemail transcription; custom voicemail greetings for different callers; email and SMS notifications, and low-priced international calling. Those who use the service with a Google phone number get one number that connects to all your phones, SMS via email, call screening, call recording, conference calling and call blocking.
It's not clear if Google will incorporate paid search into Google Voice, but David Gould, president of Resolution Media, says it is possible that Google could serve relevant ads alongside text transcriptions of voicemails similar to how it serves ads in Gmail based on email content. "There could also be a pay-per-call component for directory assistance," he says.
The technology behind Google Voice was acquired from GrandCentral in 2007, a startup that originally debuted at a DEMO conference in 2006. The technology speaks to Google CEO Eric Schmidt's concept of acquiring niche technologies when possible to quickly build out services.
One service that Google may have trouble launching is an application for the iPhone, which has not gained approval by Apple. When the application did not make it to the Apple app store and the company removed similar applications from the store, the Federal Communications Commission launched an investigation.
Apple said the Google Voice application was denied because Apple believed it duplicated the "core dialer functionality of the iPhone." Apple says it is "continuing to study" Google's application.