One of the possible implications Google (News - Alert) Voice represents is the possible dampening effect on cable digital voice growth.
Some analysts already are attributing slower net growth of cable digital voice in the U.S. market to saturation of the "same service, cheaper" market segment. By that logic, customers who want landline voice service and are motivated by the "same service, lower cost" pitch already have switched from telcos to cable.
The next phase of cable voice growth will have to confront new resistance, including a large number of customers for whom current solutions are workable and satisfactory, or for whom the risk of switching to cable voice is higher than the potential value.
More important in the consumer segment are users increasingly inclined to go "mobile only." In that case, cable digital voice does not represent a reasonable alternative to telco voice. At some point, cable fixed line services will be as vulnerable to wireless substitution as much as telco fixed lines are.
Google Voice represents another sort of threat, to a different set of contestants. Google Voice offers free voice-to-text transcription, reducing the value of rival for-fee services offered by independent VoIP providers. Google Voice also now will compete with other services largely used for low-cost international calling, such as Skype (News - Alert).
So far, Google Voice does not threaten use of Skype-style conferencing, but does signal a possible threat even to providers of unified communications services and applications.
Google Voice now can be launched from BlackBerry and Android (News - Alert) mobile handsets. One wonders whether, at some point, Google Voice might extend those sorts of features to at least some landline devices as well. In that case, Google Voice actually would represent the more-generalized threat some have suggested is possible.
Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi