Google has decided to launch their own IM product, Google Talk. This app looks like it’s aimed squarely at Skype; it contains VOIP capability as well as IM chat. It appears that the VOIP component of Talk is proprietary, which is an interesting move, while the IM component uses the common Jabber protocols. That means that Google Talk users can IM with users of Apple iChat, Gaim, and Trillian Pro, but they can only VOIP with other Google Talk users. This is particularly limiting, since the the Talk client is only available for Windows. Mac and Linux users are S.O.L.
At first, I was anxious to try it, but now I have my doubts (as does Narthex). I am an avid user of Trillian Basic. It does all that I need; it aggregates my IM clients, logs my conversations, and encrypts ICQ protocol messages to deter over-the-wire interception. I have not upgraded to Trillian Pro since that version offers me little return for my $25. I do not find that I need the additional features of the Pro version, and that is the version required to add the Jabber/XMPP plug-in that allows you to connect to Google Talk. And even with the plug-in, I’d still need to run the Google Talk client to use the Voice features. Since I’d have to run a second app to make use of the VOIP features, why not just stick with Skype?
Which brings me to my point: Is there room for two talk-for-free VOIP applications in the arena? And how does Google plan on competing with the large, established user base of Skype? Google Talk has almost no differentiation from Skype, in fact. Well, nothing that would be considered “positive” differentiation. Skype has a larger feature set, more users, and a pile of plug-ins already. That said, it would not surprise me to find out this was a prelude to an acquisition of Skype by Google.
Google puts out some great software, and I’m a big fan, but I think there is more to Google Talk than we are being shown right now, and I’m interested to see what it is.