I believe Google Voice (GV) has begun to be hugely disruptive and the FCC’s recent inquiry into GV apps on the iPhone is just the beginning. GV brings a wealth of features and power to “joe user” and once number portability becomes widely available I believe Google will see huge numbers of people yearning for the service as they did for GMail invites perhaps even more so. The interesting thing is that if you put most of the cool features of GV aside it might turn out that free SMS is it’s most compelling feature. According to this Wikipedia article on SMS 74% of all mobile phone subscribers use SMS making it a $81 Billion market (and that was in 2006)! Clearly, the loss of revenue on a 90% profit margin business would cause serious issues throughout the phone industry though I’m sure it’s only one of a myriad of reasons GV apps have been removed or denied from the App Store.
I see GV playing right into Google’s core ad business with such a huge potential audience it dramatically increases the knowledge it already has about it’s search customers which drives ad effectiveness. While it’s not without issues the feature set may well be too enticing for people to ignore though I’d guess most users will skip reading the fine print in the privacy terms.
Recently, I’ve been looking at SMS/text plans from Verizon, our provider, and since I don’t text I’m struggling to understand how the industry has been able to maintain such high profit margins but given the Senate’s recent move to ban it while driving texting must be an addictive technology like mobile phones themselves which explains a lot. On a related note, given the SMS numbers above it’s not surprising short text services like Twitter are growing so quickly. I suppose we’ll eventually see Twitter for SMS where you can text everyone in your contact list at once and with GPS technology appearing in most mobile devices the ability to text everyone in your immediate vicinity? Will we actually reach the point where the devices in our pockets will function as a real time, broadcasting mood ring?
I’m not really sure about where all this tiny text fragment communication is leading us but it’s certainly not going away any time soon.