When Google acquired Gizmo5, a Skype competitor, in November Google Voice users rejoiced – presumably they’d be getting a much needed soft phone on the desktop for users to make and receive calls through Google Voice.
We confirmed that the application had been rewritten and was being tested internally at Google in April. Some Google employees continue to use the app, we’ve confirmed.
But don’t expect it to launch publicly any time soon, we’ve heard from multiple sources. Why ? an internal religious debate about desktop software.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin don’t want Google to be in the business of creating software outside of the browser, say our sources. And that’s consistent with Google’s product launches over the last several years.
Of course it ignores the efforts that Google is putting into developing their own Chrome browser, Chrome operating system and Android operating system, as well as a variety of mobile apps – all are software that installs on computers or mobile devices.
But there may be a hard line when it comes to pure desktop apps like Google Voice. So the team has been sent back to the drawing board to try to make a workable soft phone that will work entirely within the browser using HTML 5.
Possible ? Nope, not today, and not at scale, say our sources. Skype tried for years to create a browser based version of the service and never launched. The biggest problem is around proper integration with the microphone, it’s just really hard to get good sound quality with HTML 5 today.
In a year or two that may change. But users don’t want to wait a year. For now they can get a Skype phone number for €50/year and forward Google Voice to that. But you can’t call out of Skype using your Google Voice phone number (Update: strike that, see comments below – you can set Skype called ID to your Google Voice number), and that cost is fairly expensive for a soft phone.
I say rules are made to be broken, and this is one of them. Release the client, Google. We want it.