So, the recent news that Google is doing away with Picasa (or at least Picasa Web) and Blogger and replacing them with more deeply integrated services called Google Photos and Google Blogs has swept across the internet in a flurry of commentary. (Oh, before I forget… what happened to the Photovine trademark Google got recently?) It’s seems Google is wanting to more deeply integrate it’s services into a united experience that will see more web surfers spend their time on Google both at work (with Google Apps) and at home.
Imagine a day were you open your web browser (Chrome) and instantly your search engine (Google), your email (GMail) and your social network (Google+) all open up to greet you. You might surf the web for hours, going between emails, documents, Google Blogs and YouTube before even leaving Google properties. This was a vision that Facebook seemed to want to carry out, integrating all the web under their umbrella. But now, Google is beating them to it with slick interfaces and much more experience and trust with both users –and perhaps more importantly– with businesses.
While I was thinking of this future, I realized there are a lot of Google products not yet brought into this new fold. I’m sure many of them will be eventually, but, I’d like to make my own personal top list for brands that Google should integrate elsewhere, or do away with entirely.
Google Talk / Google Voice & Friends
Google has an itch with chat and voice communication that it never quite seems able to scratch. Google has invested a lot in the real-time communication space:
Google Talk — Lets you chat with friend using the XMPP protocol and supports audio as well as video. It is downloadable (minus video support), available on Android phones, appears as a GMail and Google+ widget.
Google Voice — Gives you a phone number that can send SMS text messages to and from you via e-mail, act as a simple exchange for multiple phone numbers, and transcribe voice-mails left for you into e-mailed text and/or SMS. It’s available as a web application, as an Android app and as a Chrome extension.
GMail Labs SMS in Chat — This labs tool for GMail lets you send and receive SMS text messages from the Google Talk widget in GMail. It will automatically assign you a phone number when sending a message that seems to have no set expiry, it will not use your Google Voice number.
Disco — A group SMS texting tool created by the Slide team inside Google. It lets you create a group of friends, giving you a single number to text them all at once. If they respond to your texts, everyone gets the response. It’s available as a web tool, and as an iOS/Android app.
Google India Labs SMS Channels — A slight twist on Disco, SMS channels lets you make a “channel” you can send text messages to, and others can subscribe to your channel to receive your texts.
Google+ Huddle — A cross-over that provides the same Disco functionality, but also adds an extra option to send and receive texts from one person. The later option likely to avoid charges if the mobile provider would charge for traditional SMS. (Video)
Google+ Hangouts — A web app that uses the Google Talk widget to create group video chats, also supports real-time messaging between chat participants as well as synchronous YouTube watching.
Google seriously needs to condense and simplify its line up of chat tools. I would like to see /all/ of this functionality wrapped into one unified experience with the same branding and apps that work online, on the desktop, and on all major mobile platforms. Google bought Gizmo5, and would seem to have a large internal team to churn out all this different products. Making them into one team to produce a single awesome tools that spanned SMS messaging, instant messaging, VOIP, and PSTN could place Google ahead of the Microsoft/Skype/Facebook behemoth that now dominates.
Long ago antiquated with every major operating system supporting both its own search index for documents and programs and its own desktop widget system, Google Desktop looks more like a fond memory of by-gone days when Google pushed those features to the masses. With no real need for further innovation or changes on that front that OS vendors have covered so well, it’s time to say good-bye to Google Desktop.
Now that Google+ is in the wild, anyone with a Google+ account should get the option to one-time import their old Buzz feed into their Google+ timeline and close the account. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to see those entries retaining their original fidelity and maybe even benefiting from the great new way Google+ displays images and links within timeline entries. One Google detects the user has “upgraded,” they should serve any Google Buzz buttons embedded from their servers on web to say Google+ instead. Also, any posts going to Buzz from an upgraded user (perhaps from an older device or software application) would be transparently posted to their Google+ timeline instead, perhaps even allowing them to choose a default publicity level.