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20 Feb 2013
Google is keeping its cards close to its chest and not commenting on speculation that it’s preparing to launch a unified communications solution. The idea that it’s doing so is all over the Internet, although it should be stressed that there is nothing official confirmed as yet.
The rumour appears to have started on the Pocket-Lint website, which published what looks like a screen shot of a unified communications system. This, if it’s genuine, would link Google Voice, the Google+ social network, Google Plus and Gmail into the same page.
It is entirely possible that this was a mock-up to illustrate what such a page would look like if Google went ahead and put it together.
Competition from Apple
It would make a lot of sense if it were correct, of course. Google has a load of tablets and phones in the market so controlling the messaging that happens on them would be tactically useful, and making communications easier would be a logical part of this.
More seriously for the company, Apple already does this by unifying its communications across its own ecosystem. If you are logged in to an iCloud account you can read your messages on your iPad, your iPod Touch, your iPhone or your desktop/laptop. Apple is entirely neutral on the hardware.
Clearly it’s easier to unify all of these different levels of communication in a walled garden like the Apple environment than the more open free-for-all that Google’s Android has created. And Microsoft’s forthcoming revamp of the rebranded Hotmail, which will now be called Outlook.com, is likely to have elements of UC as well. For Google to do something similar would be feasible and is logical but for one element.
Google+, the organisation’s second stab at a social network following the aborted Google Buzz, remains something of an unknown quantity. It has had numerous sign-ups depending on which figures you read, but the organization has been less than forthcoming about how many active users it has and how long people are spending on the network. Unlike its predecessor it’s not going away, but it’s not yet a serious competitor to Facebook, Twitter or the other major social networks. Of course a unified front end might make it all the more appealing.
Of course none of this is official yet and when we approached Google a spokeswoman said the company never comments on speculation. But Google as a major player in consumer and small business UC during 2013 would be logical. Perhaps we'll learn more in just a few weeks as Google are bringing a Connected Business Think Tank to Unified Communications Expo.