Google Voice has been cleared for Apple's iPhone and should be available via the App Store in a few weeks, according to a report at TechCrunch.com, citing a source "close to Google."
But although Google Voice can give individual users a more cohesive, interrelated communications bundle, its enterprise benefits may be more limited, according to one analyst.
Apple's decision, reversing a previous and controversial rejection, is not a complete surprise, as Network World's iOnApple blogger, Yoni Heisler, noted last week: iPhone developer Sean Kovacs was invited by Apple to re-submit an iPhone application he's written to work with Google Voice. He did and GV Mobile + is now available for $2.99 via the App Store.
Heisler speculates that Apple is responding to industry and regulatory pressures. "Perhaps feeling the pressure from the FCC and wishing to avoid a legal tussle, Apple recently loosened up many of the iTunes App Store restrictions that had previously frustrated a number of developers," he writes. "Not only are iOS developers now allowed to use cross-platform development tools, but a number of previously rejected/removed/pending review apps are now finding their way back into iTunes, chief among them Google Voice."
It may be a few weeks before the official Google Voice actually shows up in the iOS catalog, according to TechCrunch whose source says that Google is revamping the code to exploit the multitasking capabilities that Apple turned on with iOS 4.0.
The news site posted an official no-comment from Google: "We currently offer Google Voice mobile apps for Blackberry and Android, and we offer an HTML5 web app for the iPhone. We have nothing further to announce at this time."
First unveiled in 2009, Google Voice became generally available earlier this year. If you have an existing U.S. phone service, and a Google Web account, you can register with Google Voice to get a new local phone number that replaces separate numbers for your office, cell, and home phones. Google Voice essentially acts as a redirector in handling calls, while adding a range of features such as searchable voice mail, conference calling, call screening and blocking, and transcribing voice mail messages into text.
On the official site, Google has a high-level video describing the features.
In late August, Google unveiled a new feature: from your Gmail inbox, you can make phone calls using Google Voice. A "Call Phone" button appears at the left of the inbox. Pressing it brings up the familiar phone dial pad, which also keeps track of your recent call history.
PC Worlds' Rick Brioda recently posted a generally favorable review of Google Voice, though he's decided not to use it himself.
"So, do you need Google Voice? If you're a phone junkie who juggles, say, a couple of cell phones, an office phone, and a home landline, then absolutely," he writes. "It's an incredible way to unify and manage all your lines under the umbrella of a single phone number. Just be aware that it can't conveniently take the place of a landline."
It's unlikely that Google Voice will become part of the enterprise version of Google Apps, according to Charles Glovin, principal analyst with Forrester Research, cited in a recent CIO.com story. Changing phone numbers in enterprise telephony systems is a "huge undertaking" and one Google isn't able to address now, according to Glovin.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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