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What Does Google Get Out of Voice?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the achieving-sentience-takes-patience dept.

Communications 119

itwbennett writes "Assuming Google isn't offering Voice out of the goodness of their hearts, what's the payoff? One likely, if cynical, possibility is that Google Voice is 'just another feeder for their vast database on you,' writes Kevin Purdy in a recent blog post. Or maybe Google just wants to get better at speech-to-text, and collecting your voice messages is just one big voice-mining effort. 'They already did it with GOOG-411, the free phone directory service that mined voices across the country to launch Google Voice's current transcription offering,' says Purdy. For its part, Google says it has no plans to monetize Voice beyond the international calling and number porting fees that it currently charges."

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119 comments

Do No Net Evil (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#39484139)

Nonsense. The reals reason is that Google maintains a very complex evil portfolio that they need to offset with good assets by the end of the fiscal year. Capitalism and the free market has turned their "do no evil" slogan into "do no net evil." As a result, Google Voice generates rare and coveted benidons that are traded on the moral exchange. One benidon offsets one hedon as a base unit at the end of the year. While Microsoft and Apple executives Scrooge McDuck in their massive hedon reserves and show them off to investors, every year Google struggles more and more to finish in the white.

Re:Do No Net Evil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39484203)

Very poetic, but Dr Evil says HOW ABOUT NO

Voice mining is everything. (0, Flamebait)

ronocdh (906309) | about 2 years ago | (#39484221)

Given Apple's success with Siri, Google has a long way to go to make their products as user-friendly as possible in the vaguely futuristic way Siri offers. Also, when you install Google Voice, it asks you whether you want to turn on Personalized Voice Recognition, so that Google can pick your voice out of a mess of voices. No, thanks.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (5, Interesting)

Calos (2281322) | about 2 years ago | (#39484393)

Also, when you install Google Voice, it asks you whether you want to turn on Personalized Voice Recognition,

With you so far...

so that Google can pick your voice out of a mess of voices.

[citation needed]

I personally have seen nothing that indicates this is why Google asks you to do this, and no evidence of it. Do you have any evidence?

It could be that this might also be somewhat useful in that regard, but the most obvious and most likely use is that it will make your voice transcription more accurate. It will learn your quirks and how to deal with you accent.

My Asian and Indian coworkers can't use Siri, and most have stopped trying out of frustration. It can't understand their accent, and doesn't seem to get any better over time. That is the most obvious reason why Google would want to do this.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about 2 years ago | (#39486633)

Install? I never installed anything to use it; what are you talking about?

Re:Voice mining is everything. (1)

Calos (2281322) | about 2 years ago | (#39487133)

Probably a few points of confusion here. One being what it is that you are referring to. Voice recognition, not the Google Voice app, I assume?

First: looking back, I didn't digest the GP's post well enough. I have no idea if installing Google Voice prompts you to use the personalized voice recognition. I'm not sure why it would, either. Someone else would have to clarify this point, as I have not installed Google Voice or set up a number with them.

However, voice-related parts of the OS - voice search, voice commands, etc. - does have the option to use personalized recognition. I'm not sure whether this installs anything or not, and whether it does may be different from Android 2.x to 3.x to 4.x. I just enabled it on my ICS phone, and it doesn't install anything, just notifies be that enabling it causes my voice data to be stored and associated with my account (which should be obvious).

Third, I wonder if what the GP is confusing with the personalized voice recognition is actually the Text-To-Speech (TTS) package, which if I remember correctly only a neutered version exists by default in the OS, but can be "upgraded" for free if the user finds it useful or an app suggests it (Vlingo come to mind). This, of course, would have nothing to do with recognition of your voice, but could make some sense for Google Voice.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (2)

mathfeel (937008) | about 2 years ago | (#39490903)

My Asian and Indian coworkers can't use Siri, and most have stopped trying out of frustration. It can't understand their accent, and doesn't seem to get any better over time. That is the most obvious reason why Google would want to do this.

I second this. On my android phone (Samsung Epic 4G), go to the language setting for voice-recognition. The list of supported language and ascent is long and includes both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese. FYI, there is no Indian, but there is "English (Indian)". Sure, full sentence recognition and semantic matching is not up to Siri's par in well spoken English as far as I can tell, but it works well enough for my parents, who can not really use a computer to input Chinese. Now, It is not clear to me if GV is responsible for their non-English recognition, but I wouldn't be surprised. I am also not sure if iPhone4(s) can do this, but I suspect that if it can, some of my more fanboyish friends would be jumping up and down to show me, who due to my hate of iTunes, refuses to use most hardware from Apple since iPod1.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (2)

Analog Penguin (550933) | about 2 years ago | (#39484475)

Google Voice is a call forwarding/routing and voicemail service, so it's doubtful that it will ever become a Siri competitor. Perhaps you're thinking of Google Voice Actions?

Re:Voice mining is everything. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39484637)

The guy is clearly a retard.

  He doesn't think, he blabbers.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (4, Insightful)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#39484747)

Do you have even the slightest idea of what you're talking about?

It was bad enough when the critics insisted that Google Voice was some VoIP service, and you now think it's a voice command system?

Google Voice is a really cool voicemail, call screening, redirection, and discounted international calls service. The only speech recognition it does is a transcription service for incoming voicemails (so you can read them rather than listen to them.) The transcriptions are rarely anything close to perfect, but usually good enough to get the gist.

It's not VoIP (although it's integrated quite nicely with Google Talk so it can be _part_ of a VoIP system if you want), it's not voice commands, it's a pretty unique and, in my view (disclaimer: I own ONE share of GOOG) awesome enhancement to your phone system.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (1, Informative)

JD-1027 (726234) | about 2 years ago | (#39485305)

You are selling Google Voice a bit short. After a fuming incident with ATT and my land line, I cancelled my ATT service completely and installed this:
http://obihai.com/googlevoice.html [obihai.com]

Using all of my previously installed phones, this device turned Google Voice into VOIP. It has been working flawlessly for a few months now to send and receive calls. I got the satisfaction of cancelling with ATT, saving a $30 per month bill, all for a 1 time fee of $50.

This was one of those "See what technology can do when not being impeded by greed" moments. It was a breath of fresh air.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (0)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | about 2 years ago | (#39485633)

Out of legitimate curiosity: you realize that such services have existed for years, yes?

The only difference is payment option: Other services require money, whereas google snoops through your calls and voicemails.

Google is just as greedy as everyone else, they're just making money off of your information rather than you directly.

forgot to count externalities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39486191)

I got the satisfaction of cancelling with ATT, saving a $30 per month bill, all for a 1 time fee of $50.

Like most people you have failed to count all externalities when computing something's cost.

Even before trying to identify costs for less-direct externalities such as friends for whom your new number's exchange is no longer "local" and giving ATT more support for eliminating the Universal Service Fee and the requirement to offer landline service to any residence, you have failed to include the monthly recurring cost of your Internet access (the "IP" portion of that "VOIP").

No way, no how is VOIP "a 1 time fee."

Re:Voice mining is everything. (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#39488567)

I'm not selling it short, I said you can combine Google Voice with Google Talk to make a VoIP system, it's just GV itself is not a VoIP system.

I have an Asterisk 1.8 server set up that routes outgoing International calls via Google Talk, outgoing office calls via Google Talk, and incoming Google Talk calls to my office line. Obviously as they're linked, the outgoing CLI is my Google Voice number, and calls to my GV number result in my office phone ringing. But it's Google Talk doing the grunt work, not GV.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39488867)

No he's not. I've also got an obi 110, but what he said was completely accurate. He said google voice can be a PART of a voip system when paired with google talk, but google voice is not voip. That's absolutely correct. All of the VOIP functionality comes from google talk. The obi emulates the google talk client.

I'm fairly certain you can use Google Talk standalong to do VOIP calling (though I've never tried it, and I don't know that the OBI will work without Google Voice). However, in order to allow someone with a landline or cell phone to call you (rather than you initiate the call) you need to have a phone number for them to call, and that's where Google Voice comes in.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | about 2 years ago | (#39487501)

OK - I'm curious - why *ONE* share of GOOG ?

Re:Voice mining is everything. (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#39488619)

Because they're effing expensive!

I'd buy more long term, but Google doesn't pay dividends, and I usually only invest in dividend stocks. But I like Google.

Re:Voice mining is everything. (2)

jdgeorge (18767) | about 2 years ago | (#39484869)

Siri doesn't seem to work as well as it used to, according to Steve Wozniak [cnet.com]. However, that seems to be more related to the results it provides than understanding voices (not counting the well-documented issues related to various non-US accents in English)

However, I don't think improving voice recognition is the only driver. I suspect Voice does the following:
1. Keeps people in Google
2. Increases the value proposition for Android with carriers who let you use Google Voice as your phone #
3. Broadens the suite of offerings for its business users

Re:Do No Net Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39484283)

It's "don't be evil".... But the effect is the same.

Re:Do No Net Evil (4, Funny)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 2 years ago | (#39484383)

Did you just use "Scrooge McDuck" as a verb?

Re:Do No Net Evil (5, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 2 years ago | (#39484431)

He did, didn't he. And we all know that verbing weirds language!

Re:Do No Net Evil (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 2 years ago | (#39486983)

verbing weirds language

–Bill Watterson [imgur.com]

Re:Do No Net Evil (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 2 years ago | (#39487165)

Thanks, I knew I picked it up ages ago somewhere, but I had no idea about the source.

Re:Do No Net Evil (2)

game kid (805301) | about 2 years ago | (#39484649)

You can say he Work Smarter, Not Hardered that comment.

Re:Do No Net Evil (0)

c (8461) | about 2 years ago | (#39484741)

Give it up, people. Stop nazying his grammar like that. It's just a /. comment.

Re:Do No Net Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39486725)

You Godwin'd this thread of comments.

Re:Do No Net Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39484681)

Maybe it's a participle.

Re:Do No Net Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39487399)

Stranger yet, I understood his usage perfectly.

Re:Do No Net Evil (1)

mcavic (2007672) | about 2 years ago | (#39485111)

Capitalism and the free market has turned their "do no evil" slogan into "do no net evil."

Absolutely true. After all, we're all evil. Who's the least evil among us?

Re:Do No Net Evil (3, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#39485885)

I think the reason is simple. To keep you on Google and thinking of Google.

Google makes most of its money off of adds. Mostly from Google Search. The Google Search has competitors, Bing, Yahoo, etc... Offering services such as voice gmail, maps, etc... tries to make sure that your computing needs is close to Google. So if you are going to search there is a search box close by just ready for you to use it, and get related adds visible.

Re:Do No Net Evil (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 2 years ago | (#39489761)

Google has always been "do no net evil". Their company motto has always been "Don't BE evil", not "do no evil". "do no evil" is a losing proposition from the get go, as many time in life we are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. "Don't be evil" is far more pragmatic, and just as noble, but does pretty much translate to "do no net evil".

android phones? (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#39484213)

For reasons which are far beyond this post, I can't port my old phone number to my new phone provider, but I CAN port my old number to the mighty GOOG.
Basically its a forwarding service pointing my old number to my android phone.

In the long run, if "phone service" went away and all I had was data service, and I ran google voice over that data service, I'd be OK with that. If I had ubiquitous wifi and could connect to google voice over that, I wouldn't even need "phone" service.

Re:android phones? (2)

darjen (879890) | about 2 years ago | (#39484469)

I transferred my old number to my iPad's data only connection. I still get the occasional Google voice email from someone trying to call that number, so I know if anyone was trying to reach me. I am now on prepay only for voice and iPad for 3g, which is a lot cheaper than Verizon's voice + data smartphone plan.

What it gets? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 years ago | (#39484215)

All your phone numbers, those of your wife, your kids, your mistress and all your relatives and business contacts.

Re:What it gets? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39484371)

* Surreptitiously litters search history for "orgy with everyone" *

/sick fuck

Re:What it gets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39485187)

No, not really. Google has all your contacts phone numbers BEFORE you install Google Voice. If you use an Android phone, you are going to want to sync your contact list to your google account. Do you how often I still see people on Facebook claiming they lost all their contacts because they got a new phone?

Re:What it gets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39485365)

If you use an Android phone, you are going to want to sync your contact list to your google account.

Why? Local contacts storage works fine on Android phones with the Google account disablea.

If I only have one phone, what benefit does Google sync offer?

Re:What it gets? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39485419)

If it breaks unexpectedly, your contacts are backed up.

Re:What it gets? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#39490481)

Having seen what was going on with facebook, they naturally assumed that people would happily give them that through google plus.

A Less Cynical Possiblity (5, Interesting)

geoffrobinson (109879) | about 2 years ago | (#39484233)

They get the ability to really improve voice recognition software, the ability to search on audio, etc.

Just a guess.

Re:A Less Cynical Possiblity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39484349)

Or maybe it is just the money.

"Google says it has no plans to monetize Voice beyond the international calling and number porting fees"

I bet they make a pile of cash on international calling. Maybe not as much as all that ads, but probably enough to justify keeping the service.

Re:A Less Cynical Possiblity (1)

Binkleyz (175773) | about 2 years ago | (#39488027)

Speaking as one that utilizes their int'l calling options, I can't imagine how they're making a raft of money off of me when I'm only paying $.02/min for calls to France..

Re:A Less Cynical Possiblity (1)

garcia (6573) | about 2 years ago | (#39484505)

The recognition is getting better as the voicemail transcripts I receive in e-mail are no longer totally unreadable. While they're rarely correct, I can now get a basic idea of the call before listening to it.

I'd be willing to bet that while they're getting a lot of "evil" information out of the data they are collecting, they are also providing a somewhat useful service to those who use their services.

Re:A Less Cynical Possiblity (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | about 2 years ago | (#39484771)

That was my instinct as well. They also own YouTube, which opens up some possibilities: Obviously, great video searching options but also automatic video transcripts and things like that. Once they have a transcript they can run their other algorithms over it and relate it more strongly to other sources, both video and non-video sources. If there's a G+ account to tie into, you also have all of that information.

Better search. Better recommendations. Better profiles. Better advertising placement. It's a big win for Google, and it's not like audio/video postings are going anywhere anytime soon. Now that so many people have a smartphone in their pocket, those video recordings are only getting more common.

Re:A Less Cynical Possiblity (3, Interesting)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#39484821)

...plus they get what they get from GMail: advertising dollars.

Yes, I'm aware that the Android apps don't show apps. But the websites do. And the chances are that if you use GV, you use the websites as well as the apps. I read* half my voicemails in GMail.

I'm kind of baffled by this article to be honest. In any other case, a site funded by ads on the web front-end, and payments for premium services, would not generate this kind of stupid question! But if it's GOOGLE, OMG! They must be up to something!

* For those who think that's an error, which will compromise of 90% of Slashdotters based upon my experience, please find out what Google Voice is. Go to voice.google.com and take a look. Yes, I read my voicemails.

Re:A Less Cynical Possiblity (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#39484855)

Yes, I'm aware that the Android apps don't show apps

Uh, don't show ads, obviously. Sorry. Not enough coffee this morning.

Re:A Less Cynical Possiblity (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 2 years ago | (#39492195)

This. Indeed, the most convenience I get from GV is being able to read the messages in my voicemail without having to dial in etc - which is much easier to do on the go. And when I'm at my desktop, I'll usually do that via the (very GMail-like) web interface, rather than the phone.

data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39484263)

They transcribe your voicemail and mail it to your gmail account. They scan your gmail to target their advertising. What do they get out of it? Mining your voicemail as well as your email, for one.

I do not know and do not care! (2, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | about 2 years ago | (#39484271)

"Assuming Google isn't offering Voice out of the goodness of their hearts, what's the payoff?

Sincerely folks, I do not know or care. What matters to me is how I am going to be able to make something for myself in a climate of strangling student, home, medical and personal debts. All these in a climate of an uncertain job market, which is likely to get worse before getting better.

What Google of any other company is doing with their cash is of no consequence to me sincerely.

Does what Google do with its services matter to you? If so, how?

Re:I do not know and do not care! (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39484325)

Does what Google do with its services matter to you? If so, how?

Has it occurred to you that the interest rates on those strangling loans could be computed using data gathered by companies like Google? That you might receive a less favorable rate because of who your contacts are or what you say to them?

Privacy and empowerment go hand-in-hand; when you lose privacy, the people you lost it to gain power over you.

Re:I do not know and do not care! (2)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 2 years ago | (#39485347)

It could not because that would be an egregious violation of Google's privacy policy. You may not like what Google does with your information, but they have always been upfront about it.

Re:I do not know and do not care! (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#39485687)

It could not because that would be an egregious violation of Google's privacy policy. You may not like what Google does with your information, but they have always been upfront about it.

Remember, Google is about collecting information. With Voice, they have lots of statistics - who called you, who left you a voice mail, your phone numbers. I'm betting those who use Google Voice never see one of those "You need to add your mobile phone number to your Google account" intersitials (with a tiny line under it that basically says "I do not want to add my number"). Sure, ostensibly it's to "protect your account", but it's a real number.

And it's NOT a violation of Google's policy if an advertiser came up to Google and said "I'd like to show this ad to people in ZZZ city with area code YYY." Given Google owns the best AND worst ad network out there...

And given employers and other people are using Google and Facebook and G+ and all other social networks, it could very well be Google aggregating the data and either making it public or selling it. I'm sure Google has a similar thing going on like Facebook where companies can pay extra $$$ to get unfettered access to the data as part of "we may share your data with interested third parties".

Re:I do not know and do not care! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39486561)

I'm sure Google has a similar thing going on like Facebook where companies can pay extra $$$ to get unfettered access to the data as part of "we may share your data with interested third parties".

No they absolutely do not: "We do not share personal information with companies, organizations and individuals outside of Google" (Ref: http://www.google.com/policies/privacy/). There is no "we may share your data with third-parties" clause in the Google privacy policy, unlike almost [visa.com] every [target.com] other [bankofamerica.com] company [facebook.com] out [twitter.com] there [microsoft.com]. Read the links carefully and you will see that Google has one of the best privacy policies (at least in terms on sharing information with third parties). Also note that some of these companies have way more personal and sensitive information about you that Google.

Disclaimers:
      * I work at Google
      * These are entirely my own views and opinions and do not represent Google's in any way.

Re:I do not know and do not care! (1)

246o1 (914193) | about 2 years ago | (#39488637)

I'm betting those who use Google Voice never see one of those "You need to add your mobile phone number to your Google account" intersitials (with a tiny line under it that basically says "I do not want to add my number"). Sure, ostensibly it's to "protect your account", but it's a real number.

I use Google Voice and still get that interstitial.

Re:I do not know and do not care! (1)

gottabeme (590848) | about 2 years ago | (#39489729)

I'm betting those who use Google Voice never see one of those "You need to add your mobile phone number to your Google account" intersitials (with a tiny line under it that basically says "I do not want to add my number").

You're wrong.

Re:I do not know and do not care! (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 2 years ago | (#39485693)

So if they can charge more for insuring dipshits does that mean that responsible young adults can get preferred rates?
If so. How exactly is it a bad thing for companies to charge people who are a higher risk more money?

Language Barrier (3, Interesting)

jduhls (1666325) | about 2 years ago | (#39484323)

Speech recognition is essential in order to achieve the inevitable pre-singularity destruction of the language barrier. They want to monetize that destruction. They are a business. Duh.

Google: World's biggest statistical service (5, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 2 years ago | (#39484357)

Author hits the nail on the head. A lot of people debate whether Google is a search company or an ad company, truth is it's neither, it's the world's biggest statical service, gathering up and analyzing massive amounts of statistics(for good or for ill). Their main way of monetizing that right now is ads, but they are already starting to branch out. For instance you can pay to have Google's pattern matching technology mine through your own company's data to find trends, classify things etc. And I imagine that Google is looking towards other markets beyond ads, and for that they will need lots and lots of data, your data....

Re:Google: World's biggest statistical service (5, Informative)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | about 2 years ago | (#39485493)

No, you really can't get away with saying that.

Google made 96% of it's money in 2011 from ads. They are an ad company.

They are an ad company that is trying new things and maybe making an honest effort to diversify, but they are an ad company.

http://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html [google.com]

Re:Google: World's biggest statistical service (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 2 years ago | (#39486503)

95% of the revenue they get from ads (which make up 96% percent of its revenue) is their ability to use statistics to best target the users they are delivering ads to.

So Google is a data mining company, not an ad company. Ads are just their currently outlet at leveraging the data they have collected and will collect in the future.

In a few years, when Google knows you are hungry (based on patterns) and knows you are next to a restaurant you loved a year ago and it suggests that you go there without you even asking the phone, then you'll know that it is about the data mining.

They could leverage the data into other spaces outside advertising. Like catching a terrorist, criminal activity, monitoring competition for clients, credit rating, etc... It doesn't have to all be about selling you something.

Re:Google: World's biggest statistical service (1)

Calos (2281322) | about 2 years ago | (#39486721)

What would be interesting is if Google partnered with the more traditional actuaries - i.e., insurance companies.

They are usually way ahead of everyone else when it comes to statistical patterns and risk predictions. Imagine what they could do with a whole new arena of data to analyze.

Re:Google: World's biggest statistical service (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39490997)

Not exactly what you are talking about, but I saw a talk on Predicting the Present with Google Trends [blogspot.com]. Basically, they correlate search term frequencies with past economic data and are able to generate pretty good estimates of current economic data (like the unemployment rate). This is useful because the official figures tell you the unemployment rate 2 weeks or 4 weeks ago, not right now.

Re:Google: World's biggest statistical service (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39490969)

This gets posted every time Google is mentioned on the web. By this logic, televisions stations are ad companies, since they get the majority of their money from advertising. Newspapers are ad companies, since they get the majority of their money from advertising. Slashdot is an ad company since they get the majority of their money from advertising as are the majority of other major websites. Yes Google sell ads on other web sites and that part of their company is an ad company, but part of that 96% would be the money they get for ads on Youtube, or Gmail or Maps or their main search page and those, major sections of their company and income are no more an ad company than every other major website.

Re:Google: World's biggest statistical service (1)

izomiac (815208) | about 2 years ago | (#39491211)

Which is a more relevant way of pinning a word on a company: naming them after their most profitable product, or naming them based on how they create their products?

Re:Google: World's biggest statistical service (1)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | about 2 years ago | (#39492005)

You'll note that if you actually look at Google's products that doesn't change anything.

Android: a way to gather user data and a platform for ad delivery

Gmail: an ad delivery vector

Google Voice: a (marginally successful) attempt to extend the gmail snooping to phone calls

Google Earth: a method for determining where you are at any given time to ensure they can give you the best local ads

Whatever way you slice it, Google is an advertising company

It's a sunk cost (5, Insightful)

Jimmy_B (129296) | about 2 years ago | (#39484387)

If Google had won a wireless spectrum auction (they didn't), then Google Voice could've been the core of Google's competition with the telco network. Pieces of it are probably still useful for Android, and it could give them negotiating leverage with carriers. So it could've been really important, but didn't turn out that way. The thing with software products, though, is that almost all of the cost is in the initial creation; once created, they cost very little to keep around. So Google keeps Voice running, because it costs them little and turning it off would be very disruptive.

Re:It's a sunk cost (3, Insightful)

pz (113803) | about 2 years ago | (#39484567)

If Google had won a wireless spectrum auction (they didn't), then Google Voice could've been the core of Google's competition with the telco network.

Very insightful. However, there's nothing to say that Google won't obtain wireless spectrum through some other means, like a future auction, or outright acquisition of an extant carrier. Given that AT&T and T-Mobile USA were slow dancing before the FTC turned on the lights, one can readily assume either one might be approachable with an offer. Google has tons of cash on hand, too.

Re:It's a sunk cost (1)

delinear (991444) | about 2 years ago | (#39485317)

Not to mention that the US isn't the only market where they could get a foot in the door. Auctioning of the spectrum is currently a hot topic here in the UK with current and potential new carriers all squabbling about who should be first in line. Given the smaller size of the market and the comparatively large size of business done via mobile/internet (largest ecommerce spend per head in the world) it would be a great proving ground for Google to trial such a service without committing to a larger, logistically more troublesome market right off the bat.

Re:It's a sunk cost (2)

spacepimp (664856) | about 2 years ago | (#39485119)

Google didn't necessarily want to win the Spectrum auction. They wanted the open access rules that got passed through the FCC. Google won that auction by not winning (sort of Zen). However Verizon who did win, is definitely toeing the line of the agreements.

Re:It's a sunk cost (1)

V-similitude (2186590) | about 2 years ago | (#39492117)

A lot of their other semi-experimental projects that have been shut down recently (Wave, for example) were also sunk costs, but they were shut down nonetheless, in a bid to streamline Google's services. So no, sunk cost alone is not enough justification anymore for Google to continue a project. There must be something else about GVoice to justify its continued existence. (Especially because it's almost certainly more costly maintenance-wise than something like Wave.)

They made money off me (3, Insightful)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 2 years ago | (#39484479)

I paid $10 on Google Voice for calling a relative in the Middle East. However, I've paid $0 in ten years of using Google's other servces. Don't underestimate the price of calling non-western countries.

Re:They made money off me (2)

b0bby (201198) | about 2 years ago | (#39484645)

Yeah, I have an Obi110 & use their international calling too. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good and for the cost it's great.

They have already said early on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39484803)

It was a great test bed for improving the speech to text algorithms with a huge variety of accents and languages. It is the research the leads you to a Siri type service, or just a better hands free device.

I don't rely on it because it isn't in my best interest to rely on a service that I can't see why it is being given away. I know that a local phone number should cost a minimal amount of money to create and maintain. So, why am isn't Google charging $2 a month for it? Since they are not, I have to assume that this service could be temporary.

For those responses indicating that they get your phone numbers, they get that with Android's integration with gmail, without any additional expense to them.

Re:They have already said early on (1)

delinear (991444) | about 2 years ago | (#39485403)

Did you not just answer your own question before you asked it? The reason it's being given away is because your participation is valuable to them. Sure, it might go away at some point, but it's doubtful it will just be turned off without warning. On the other hand solving speech to text is not a trivial thing, especially considering language is constantly evolving, if they're deriving benefit from being able to gather this data then it's not something they'll suddenly stop gaining benefit from in the near future.

Google == (1984 for profit) (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#39484917)

Google is collecting data on us in so many ways. The good thing is that they are in it for advertising dollars and don't care about personally tying us to our habits. Google wants to understand our connections, interactions, and preferences in a way that maximizes our value as a target market for someone else's product. When an advertiser wants to target a very tight demographic, Google wants to be able to produce the maximum number of near-perfect matches. Even more than that, they want to make sure that those ads go in front of not just the people who match, but the people who match AND act on such information.

In a way, Google is an anti-corporation in they they do take the long view of value. They're willing to give you free GV service for years, on the hunch that someone will eventually want to sell you something, and you'll be just the right person to buy it. When advertisers find out that their Google ads have a 10 or 20 or 100% better rate on the dollar because Google can find them just the right consumers, they'll keep coming back.

Voice recognition is coming of age, and it would cost an immense amount of money to collect and categorize the myriad of languages and dialects of the world. Not only does Google not have to set up satellite offices everywhere to collect data, the study participants are giving Google their time for free. Even one better - it's real, conversational speech. Google isn't getting some idealized, white room version of speech, they're getting what's actually out there in the wild.

The more Google understands, the better Google can profile you. Google won't just know what you were looking for last week, they'll be able to anticipate what you will need next week, next month, or next year. By understading and correlating buzz (little "b"), they could predict movements in people, in industries, in commodities, in governments. Those last ones start straying out of the "don't be evil" territory.

As long as Google stays corporate and focused on advertising, we're in great shape. As odd as it sounds, I think the world would be a much better place if the only ads I saw were for things I wanted or needed (then again, I don't have ED...). If Google were to get into commodities or market prediction, or involved in personal witch hunts, things could go down hill pretty quickly.

Simple: videoconferencing (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 2 years ago | (#39485329)

Think about it. Google offers a lot of messaging offerings. Google Voice is the voice portion of videoconferencing. The software also supports the video part. If Google wants to offer an integrated messaging system (e-mail, IM, voice/audio, videoconference) to corporate customers, Google Voice plays a central part. And then there's Android: Google Voice is their version of the many "wireless calling" features on cel phones that let you make/receive phone calls using local wireless connectivity instead of the cel network (useful inside downtown office buildings where cel reception's poor).

Google Voice is one of those products that on it's own isn't particularly sellable, but once you have it you can build a lot of other things that are.

What's a "plog"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39485357)

I know, offtopic, but I just need to know. What is a "plog"?

Google costs a so low (1)

nipslan (2604693) | about 2 years ago | (#39485363)

They provide practically no support. People have text messages and phantom calls that repeat over and over again. It's not meant for business use. Imagine sending a single text message and having it repeat forever and all you can do is send in little support form emails which they confirm they will not contact you back unless they want to. I know it happens because I have been receiving the same txt message over and over again for months now, with no resolution in sight.

Re:Google costs a so low (1)

TuringCheck (1989202) | about 2 years ago | (#39490883)

I know that you got frustrated by the SMS issue but having it repeat "forever" (that is, 20-30 times) has nothing to do with Google. It can occasionally happen with a regular text message sent from one phone to another in the network of the same operator. Some Femtocells appear to cause the bug - that not being an excuse for the mobile operators and their vendors.

As long as I continue to get free VoIP... (1)

bryansj (89051) | about 2 years ago | (#39485391)

I don't care what the reasons are as long as my Obi 110 keeps giving me free VoIP using Google Voice. I have my Obi hooked into my home phone line so every phone in the house can use it to make and receive calls just like the landline service that I cancelled. It works great and helps me keep our mobile minutes on the minimum plan.

where the money was before google bought it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39485965)

First off do recall that Google voice was bought not made by them. Having been in the telco world, the money comes from you calling a google voice number, being that it is routed to a CLEC or and ILEC and that cost the caller more then calling say ATT. But with most of us having free anywhere calling we never see that it cost our provider more money. Also when you make that out bound call from the google voice account when that caller ID number goes out it cost your phone provider money if they want to look that number up as well. Now mind you we are talking about fractions of a penny for each time all of this happens but with some one the size of google and how big they made it, it could bring in a bit of cash for sure. But this may just help the whole thing run in a wash for being able to see how the market uses the service, and for being able to develop more voice software on the back side as well. I am just pointing out that money can be made on it if that is what they really wanted to do.

What Does Google Get Out of Voice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39486889)

There was a competition on a signal processing with the goal of classifying healthy/unhealthy cows based on recordings of them doing "MOOO".
Likewise, Google could possibly show you medical ads when it thinks you're sick (or when you have the voice of Miles Davis).
Or they could use it to further profile you (e.g. voice depth and tone, which may be related to some psychological traits; guessing your age, etc.)

If it were another company (1)

thereitis (2355426) | about 2 years ago | (#39486929)

If it were another company, I'd say building a subscriber base and selling out to a big company later on. But this is Google - they are the big company. :)

Info (2)

CimmerianX (2478270) | about 2 years ago | (#39487759)

It gets information on you. How else do you think Google makes its money.

It knows who you are.
Google Pay = your credit cards
Google voice = Your phone numbers, all who call you and all you call.
GMail = all your mail is indexed and attachments scanned
Apps = All your docs and data
contacts = huge DB that is easily crossed referenced
android phone = gps location, data usage, etc..

Just add all that to the searches, calendar items, name it.

It's a 1 stop shop for all things info about you. The more info they have, the more valuable it becomes.

All they need is a google connected toilet and refrigerator to complete the picture

This is why I refuse to give them my cell number (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39488137)

The less Google knows about me the better.

GrandCentral (1)

RR (64484) | about 2 years ago | (#39488601)

Google Voice was originally a startup named GrandCentral [wikipedia.org], and it was invented to fill a personal need for a phone number that is independent of the phone carriers. Presumably, that need still exists.

Re:GrandCentral (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39488883)

Don't be so naïve. Some others here got it right. Google invests in products people want to use only if using those products generates a lot of useful information about its users for Google. GC had a foot in the door and Google realized it had potential for all the right reasons.

Reciprocal compensation, maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39489929)

I'm not convinced it's a net gain for Google, but it's very likely that they're paid every time your call goes to their voice mail.
The 'net says recip' comp' is a way complex system, but it boils down to carriers charging each other to transport or terminate calls.

Your normal GV call would be a call to Google (so, they get paid), and a call to you (so, they pay)... turns out to be a wash. But voicemail or VOIP calls, that's all getting paid. Soft switches aren't all that expensive, so their capital investment isn't outrageous. I wouldn't be surprised if, whether in the red or the black, it's a small enough portion of the budget that they keep it around.

I've also seen hints that Google has done SIP with that service... that might be important if they're selling SIP services to other companies.

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