Google (News - Alert) Voice has added a new feature that allows users to get their text messages by email. After enabling SMS-to-email forwarding, every time you receive a new SMS on your Google Voice number, Google Voice will send an email notification.
The new capability allows users to unify email and text messages in one message box, and reply to messages from one location. That unified messaging capability might be helpful for the same reason all unified messaging features are: they reduce the need to check multiple mailboxes.
But keep in mind that for some consumers, with limited text messaging budgets or plans, the new feature allows them to turn off SMS notification to their phone in Google Voice and receive and reply to SMS messages by email, saving on SMS costs. That would work for users who spend lots of time in front of their PCs, but also users who have mobile email and likewise want to economize on use of text messaging.
Conversation threading is the other benefit. If one uses Gmail, there also is the extra benefit of threading all text messages between one user and one contact into one conversation, so it is easy to see the whole discussion.
The feature can be easily turned on or off from the call settings page. Google Voice has for a while supported text message capabilities from either mobile phone or PC.
The latest upgrade, which follows voice transcription capabilities (okay, it doesn't work all that accurately, yet), shows the development of Google Voice as a unified communications platform.