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What Does Google Get Out of Voice? 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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What Does Google Get Out of Voice?

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:12AM (#39484139) Journal
    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.
    • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:36AM (#39484383) Homepage

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

    • by mcavic ( 2007672 )

      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?

    • Fiscal year my ass... they're just afraid of Santa's LONC (List Of Naughty Companies)

    • Re:Do No Net Evil (Score:4, Informative)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:38PM (#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.
    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      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? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:20AM (#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.

    • by darjen ( 879890 )

      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.

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

  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:23AM (#39484233) Homepage

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

    Just a guess.

    • by garcia ( 6573 )

      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.

    • 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

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @11:23AM (#39484821) Homepage Journal

      ...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.

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

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

      • 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.

  • "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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          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 t

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            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 hav

          • by 246o1 ( 914193 )

            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.

          • 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.

          • 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".

            Google's privacy policy specifically states that Google does not share your information with third parties.

            (Disclaimer: I'm a Google employee, but an engineer not an attorney, and this comment is based on my layman's reading of the privacy policy. It's also my honest understanding of what the policy means and intends.)

      • 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?

      • by lee1026 ( 876806 )

        By the same token, I also might get a more favorable rate. Informations asymmetries allow people with higher default risks to blend in with people with lower default risks, and forces rates for everyone to go up. More efficient markets are good for all of us.

  • Language Barrier (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jduhls ( 1666325 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:30AM (#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.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:33AM (#39484357) Homepage Journal
    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....
    • by AdrianKemp ( 1988748 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:17PM (#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]

      • by Bigby ( 659157 )

        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

        • by Calos ( 2281322 )

          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.

      • by izomiac ( 815208 )
        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?
        • 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

          • by izomiac ( 815208 )
            Google Health, Bookmarks, Checkout, Contacts, Code, Docs, Latitude, Wallet, Play, Notebook, Reader, Sites...

            Not all of Google's offerings have ads, nor did their initial product have ads. What Google started as, and creates most of their products through, is finding, processing, and compiling data. It's the common factor from search to AI driven cars. Most of Google's products make no sense for an advertising company and most ad companies don't even have consumer facing web services. They make perfec
            • Latitude is maps/earth, and is even MORE about learning your location

              Wallet/Checkout is about knowing your purchasing habits

              Notebook, Reader, Sites, Contacts, Bookmarks, Docs and Play all fall under the same "we know what you like to do" data collection.

              Yes, they have a few fringe products that are not directly aimed at finding what you do because they give the employees 20% do-whatever-you-like time.

              You seem to really want Google not to be an ad company despite all evidence pointing to the contrary.

              For the

              • by izomiac ( 815208 )
                Pegging Google as an ad company is overly simplistic. It doesn't allow you to adequately predict the range of Google's actions, thus it's not a useful classification (beyond rhetoric). It also leaves you vulnerable if they ever pose a threat, since targeted advertising is far less sinister than many of the things they could do.

                Collecting "we know what you like to do" data is much more consistent with their mission statement [google.com] and allocation of resources than with the actions of any ad company. Look at a
                • Google bought double-click, idiot.

                  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/14/technology/14DoubleClick.html [nytimes.com]

                  Thanks for playing.

                  • by izomiac ( 815208 )
                    Yes, they no longer exist. That does not preclude comparing the current market leader to the past market leader. Google and Doubleclick differ substantially, hence why Google dominated and bought them despite being a latecomer to the market.

                    "Playing"? Sorry, I was trying to have an intellectual discussion, which is cooperative, not competitive. It's not "winning" if you give nothing but assertions and steadily decline in civility until people stop talking to you.
  • To take over the world, of course. Wouldn't you?

  • It's a sunk cost (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jimmy_B ( 129296 ) <slashdot@jimran[ ]h.org ['dom' in gap]> on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:36AM (#39484387) Homepage

    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.

    • by pz ( 113803 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:57AM (#39484567) Journal

      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.

      • 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, logistic
    • 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.

    • 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.)
    • > If Google had won a wireless spectrum auction (they
      > didn't),

      You're confusing the kids, if you're not confused yourself! That's not so.

      It's a known, discussed, written, reported, contemporaneous fact that Google did not want to own spectrum, it wanted to force innovation into wireless.

      If by promising to outbid by _several_ orders of magnitude the stodgy telcos, the let's-hoard-the-spectrum-and-do-the-same-old-thing telecoms' old guard they _inadvertently_spoiled the usual telco land grab, and preven

  • by twistedcubic ( 577194 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:47AM (#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.
    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      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.

  • Maybe they like the free phone calls with the customers footing the bill

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @11:33AM (#39484917) Journal

    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.

    • When an advertiser wants to target a very tight demographic, Google wants to be able to produce the maximum number of near-perfect matches.

      It's a step beyond that, actually. Generally, advertisers don't even get much say in who their ads are presented to; it's on Google to figure out for a given ad who is likely to click on it, based not so much on traditional notions of demographic segmentation as on what Google's algorithms have learned about both the ad and the users.

      (Disclaimer: I word for Google, but not on ads, so the above is just my very high-level understanding/guess of how the real-time ad auction works. I could be wrong.)

  • 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 th

  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. :)
  • 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 hav

  • 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.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost