How Do Google's Free Phone Calls Impact Chrome OS?
Yesterday, to much fanfare, Google announced that users of Gmail will be able to make and receive free phone calls from their computers, communicating with phones. There were a lot of interpretations of the move, but—as was true when Google Voice arrived—it’s almost certainly another reason why carriers should be afraid of Google. Many people are asking how close to the phone company Google can become. One less discussed aspect of Google’s latest move, though, is how it may influence Google’s much awaited, soon to arrive Chrome OS.
As SlashGear notes:
“Interestingly, [the move] would appear to fit in with rumors from back in July, which suggested Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin froze development of a standalone desktop Google Voice softphone. Sources had suggested that the pair were unhappy with the idea of software that ran outside the browser, and hence would not fit into their concept for web-centric OSes like the upcoming Google Chrome OS.
This new web-based app, however, would allow Chrome OS notebooks to make VoIP calls with the Google Voice service, and presumably be platform agnostic. “
Along these same lines, it’s also interesting to note that Google recently added video chat features for Gmail users on Linux. Remember that Chrome OS is positioned to work with applications and data in the cloud. It’s not positioned as an OS for local apps. If users can make VoIP calls that cost nothing or nearly nothing from their Chrome OS devices, and use all their cloud apps too, Chrome OS netbooks instantly become interesting phone/computer hybrids—as do potential Chrome OS tablet devices.
What’s really of note is that Google is making so many significant moves surrounding offerings such as Google Voice and Gmail just as Chrome OS is about to arrive. One has to scrutinize the timing. With Google’s new phone calls, Chrome OS appears to change shape, and it won’t be a surprise to see a bit more shape shifting between now and the ship date for the OS.