My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Google and Google Voice - The World is Not Enough

Monday, September 6, 2010

Google and Google Voice - The World is Not Enough

Though the mills of God grind slowly,
Yet they grind exceedingly small

Longfellow, translation from the German of Von Logau

I am now convinced that the people at Google are bona fide geniuses, if not the salt in the wound of the Telecom Providers.

Last week, on Saturday August 25th, 2010 AD, (for it is indeed that type of announcement) Google announced what basically amounts to a platform mash up: Google Voice and Google Chat VoIP calling features would be integrated into Google Mail, otherwise known more colorfully as Gmail as stated in the article “Google: 1 million Gmail calls during first day”, published August 26, 2010 12:38 PM PDT by Stephen Shankland, CNET News - Deep Tech

It was also announced in the videos “CNET Buzz Report”, aired Sunday August 26th 2010 by Molly Wood, Executive Editor, CNET News and further expounded in the video “CNET Loaded”, aired Thursday August 26th 2010 by Mark Licea, Executive Editor, CNET News

It is also on “CNET News, aired Thursday August 25th 2010. John Public is surprised, as hopefully if this is a prank on the part of CNET, it is well planned. But it appears not to be. Not with a Google employee being interviewed.

The affable Vincent Paquet, Product Manager of Google Voice and most likely a Frenchman judging by his accent.

Most fitting as it was Fourier, a Frenchman who developed Fourier Transforms, key to Wavetable synthesis, Voice Telecoms and Voice-to-text technology, made the relatively low key technical achievement, “low key” mainly due to the fact that it based on the video, the press kit seemed to be a modest affair reserved for fellow tech pundits, reviewers and Google staffers.

My initial excitement was dampened by the fact that ONLY Gmail users in the United States of America or Canada would be enable to use this service for free, being able to call only mobile and landline numbers in the United States of America or Canada. That is indeed correct; you read that right.

It is not a typo, nor is my assumptions partially cooked or “half baked” as the Americans would say.

Calling from Gmail within the United States of America or Canada using a dial pad like interface in Gmail, based on information from CNET News as stated in the video “CNET How To – Make Phone Calls from Gmail”, aired Thursday August 26th 2010 by Jessica Dolcourt, Senior Associate Editor, CNET News to mobile or landline numbers in the United States of America or Canada is indeed free.

With the integration of the Google Voice Platform meaning that calls can be made and received internationally for the same low price of US$0.20!! A serious deal, as John Public, who is afraid of flying, went abroad once just to see my granny in Florida and was horrified to discover that calls from Florida cost US$1.00 to Jamaica.

I was, at first happy for the Canadians and Americans, as they seem to have gotten a good deal but lamented the fact that the International World was left out - again. That is until I went to Bargain Village, May Pen on Tuesday August 31, 2010 AD which happens to be the Independence Day of the People’s Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Smoking my chocolate pipe, puffing away merrily as I usually do, on Tuesday August 31, 2010 AD, I, John Public, Mayor of the Baxter Building, sauntered over to the lovely buxom, nymph-like Tash of the Internet Café with the Bee logo, called, for no apparent reason, the D’ Hive, the hot and happening trendy place that is so obnoxious you cannot miss the gigantic Bee symbol if you were blind.

They are located on the Ground Floor of what I often refer to as the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four of Amazing PC on the Top Floor. After such a long sentence, a short one ensues. It was late evening that day, around 4:45pm and the Amazing PC complementary café was closing down.

So I decided to check my Gmail account for emails when lo and behold, I saw that Gmail had indeed placed a Phone Logo on the Chat Bar (is there such a thing?) on the left hand panel of Gmail.

Curious I clicked on it and by jove, a phone dial pad popped up, with a prompt to download a widget or program installation. Good God, I say, steady there.

Being a fan of everything Gmail, I decided to put on my guinea pig costume and proceeded, rather nervously, to download and install, as it struck me as being decidedly odd if not statistically incongruent that a service that was announced on CNET on no fewer than five (5) CNET News sources as being ONLY for United States of America or Canada Gmail users, inclusive of a blog posting, could be incorrect.

But a further heart stopping surprise awaited me, with the members of Amazing PC gathered around to witness history as I placed a call to a female friend mobile phone that was living in the United States of America– and it worked.

It worked. I did not expect that, as the news reports all said that this was a feature available ONLY to Canadian and American Gmail users (note my repetition, it is deliberate), thus making me think that this must be some sort of mistake or bug.

But after fiddling with the settings for the mike on my personal headset, I was able to successfully make the first International Call from the Baxter Building from Amazing PC Cyber Café from Jamaica to my female friend in New York, in the United States of America, using my own personal headset and wearing a white t-shirt and jeans

The FIRST on the Baxter Building to know of this and actually do it, as witnessed by members of the Amazing PC staff on hand at closing time, like the witnesses of the first powered flight from Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers in 1888.

Call quality was good, and during the lengthy ten minute and twenty three (10 min 23 sec) call, the quality was superb, with little lag and no echo, albeit this observation is not scientific, as I did not get access to the specs of my friends handset and I did experience problems setting up the First Call, albeit it was a problem related to the computer.

I am reliably informed by a fellow TechJamaica member (yes, I am now a contributing member on their Forum, specializing in Telecoms, VoIP, Renewable Energy and Broadband) that this is a pilot test program till 31st December 2010.

I am enjoying it as much as I can, though one suspects that Google will definitely be trying to find a way to make this a permanent feature, especially as it will spur adoption of their Gmail Platform and by extension, subscriptions sign-ups from Google Buzz, Google Voice and act as a launch pad for Google Me, their revamped Facebook Social Network Killer.

I am still in surprise, confirmation provided that this was indeed legal by looking on the interface, which indeed confirmed that this capability was allowed for International Users. Once this news gets out about this in May Pen, Clarendon, Amazing PC as well as the D’ Hive will definitely get more pedestrian traffic and potentially more sales of their respective products, as other VoIP Platforms are free only for PC to PC calls, the difference being very significant.

Persons with a Gmail account apparently love it so much that approximately one million (1,000,000) called in the first 24 hours of this service debut, effectively one (1) call in every three thousand (3000) calls went through this platform in this 24 hour period.

And of course Gmail to Gmail calls are free, making this ultimately better than Skype, as the pricing model for International calls mimics those prices already on offer by Google Voice, making porting work to Google Docs worth the trouble. So how does this service, not yet “custom fitted” to Jamaica as Mary J. Bligh, obviously the great- great-grand-daughter of Captain Bligh who brought the breadfruit to Jamaica, affect us?

It apparently now appears to be custom fitted to us, as Jamaicans, once they become aware of this, would definitely be interested in owning a 3G or 4G capable smart phones, 3G Modems for Telecom Provider CLARO and Telecom Provider LIME, CPE (Customer Premises Equipment), Dongles, Notebooks and Laptops from Telecom Provider Digicel under Digicel’s WiMax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) no matter what the price and even via using Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) from Dekal Wireless and Nubian-1 Tech Services Limited.

On the downside, this reduces the International Calling over Voice Networks i.e. mobile phones, landlines, but this loss in revenue should be an acceptable trade-off for increased adoption of Data Services using 3G and 4G capable smart phones, 3G Modems for Telecom Provider CLARO and Telecom Provider LIME, CPE (Customer Premises Equipment), Dongles, Notebooks and Laptops from Telecom Provider Digicel under Digicel’s WiMax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) and even via using Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) from Dekal Wireless and Nubian-1 Tech Services Limited. Telecom Providers, you cannot always have you cake and eat it!

As soon as people realize that this test run ends on 31st December 2010, they may start looking for alternatives, and Skype is definitely up their street for Voice Calling and Video Calling , with the Apple iTV as a television alternative, now sporting Netflix streaming and Amazon movie rentals at US$0.99 as confirmed in the article “New Apple TV: US$99, Netflix streaming, 99-cent TV rentals”, published September 1, 2010 11:43 AM PDT by Matthew Moskovciak, CNET News – Crave

This as stated also in the article “For 99 cents, Amazon sells shows, Apple rents them”, published September 1, 2010 2:31 PM PDT by Ina Fried, CNET News - Beyond Binary, a complement to Television Jamaica, as it now affords live streaming of Smile Jamaica and Prime Time News only. Which I confirmed on Wednesday August 1st 2010, with a post suggesting that viewing previously aired content, most likely ad supported, would be possible in the future.

I hope it is in High Definition and I hope downloading is supported, as streaming, though nice, may not be realistic, especially as DVR (Digital Video Recording) software now comes standard with Windows 7.

Thus allowing for the trend of time shifting, now apparently catching on in Jamaica as stated in the article “Survey of viewers shows extent of TV time shifting”, published Tuesday August 17, 6:53 am ET By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer, Yahoo! News and confirmed in the follow-up article “DVR's shaking up movie marketing”, published Monday August 23, 2:30 am ET By Georg Szalai, Yahoo! News.

The calls, in tests conducted with a female friend and confidant from my C&W days living in the Big Apple doing her Masters Degree (2001 to 2004) verified what I suspected. The calls all terminate in California, specifically on a VoIP Server in California, which are then converted to switched networking calls and routed via a Local Exchange in Oceanside, Escondido County in California, based on a check on the terminating number 760-705-8888 that appeared on the screen of my friend’s smart phone.

Apparently in the United States of America, their implementation of MNP (Mobile Number Portability) on both two (2) year Contract Mobile Phones and PrePaid Phones (equivalent of Postpaid Phones) is mandated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).

Ironically here in Jamaica, Telecom Providers require identification for the purchase of 3G or 4G modems or CPE’s, effectively MNP as a means of protection from Abuse, codified into their Contract with customers, yet refusing to have MNP for their Voice Network, a benefit to identifying criminals using the network to organize themselves.

All that is required is a headset.

But a word to Google, don’t you know The World Is Not Enough (1999)…………….what about the Google Me Social Network? Stay tuned………

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