Google CEO Eric Schmidt made enough of an impression at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week that Yankee Group blogged about it. Google at the MWC.
Much criticism against Google is that they steal from book publishers, TV and movie producers, and newspapers. TechDirt regularly provides case studies of how much malarchy this is. How would anyone find your book, article, etc.? It requires a search engine, especially today where PEW statistics show that people are only visiting the 10-12 websites they know regularly.
Then there's Google Voice. Like other mobile VoIP applications, VoIP on a cell phone replaces voice minutes with data packets. It mainly replaces International minutes.
But don't call Google a thief. "His fastest comeback in the interrogation he received was to this question: "Why is Google stealing the operators' talk minutes?" Referring, we all supposed, to Google Voice as an app riding on flat-rate data plans. His immediate response: "If that's the way you think about it, then operators are stealing their own customers' talk minutes by selling them SMS."" [Yankee Group blog]
I don't think that it is about voice revenue. I think it's about the bandwidth issue. The cellular network was built around voice - under 10K streams of voice. The problem is that VoIP uses anywhere from 30K to 100K packets. Each voice call on VoIP G.729 will use up 3x what a cell call would. That's one of the worries for the cellcos - spectrum usage. Spectrum's finite.
On the other side of this coin is call quality. The reason VoIP is even considered today (versus 2005 or 2006) is because people have been conditiond to accept crappy call quality and reliability via cell phone usage. Skype-to-Skype calls give better call quality than cell to cell. If HD voice ever comes to the cell phone (like is happeneding with Orange in France), the networks will bog down. It's their own fault though. The handsets are being designed to take advantage of SAAS, email and other apps - effectively becoming a small computer. There has not been much innovation in the cell phone call quality. Where's the BOSE designed handset for great speaker-phone and call quality?
They opened Pandora's chest -- and then didn't do enough to offer consumers an alternative to VoIP (Google or otherwise) on the cellphone, like better call quality, International rate plans, better handsets equipped with noise cancellation and speakers of BOSE quality.