SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Google Inc is seeking to blur the line between the telephone and the computer even further with the introduction of Google Voice on Thursday.
The new service weaves traditional phone features with Google’s Gmail email product, allowing a person to store transcripts of voicemail phone messages in their email inbox and to find a specific nugget of information within a phone message as if trawling through a sea of emails.
The move comes as Google increasingly branches out from its stronghold in Internet search, as it seeks to carve out a role in everything from cell phones to personal productivity software.
And it demonstrates the company’s ability to fuse various technologies — home-grown and acquired — into new products, even as the economic recession puts the future of certain Google projects in question.
Google Voice is based on the technology of Grand Central Communications, a company that Google acquired in July 2007. After Grand Central remained silent for nearly two years under the Google flag, some observers wondered whether it had met the same fate as Dodgeball, a Google acquisition that was formally shut down this year.
Google Voice represents the first major update to Grand Central since the acquisition. Like the original Grand Central product, Google Voice offers consumers a single phone number that can route incoming calls to home, office and cell phones.
The new version uses speech-recognition technology that Google developed for its Goog-411 telephone directory service, automatically transcribing voicemails into text. The transcribed messages can be forwarded as an email or SMS text message to a person’s email inbox. Continue reading