updated 06:25 pm EST, Tue January 25, 2011
Google acquires SayNow for Google Voice upgrade
SayNow on Tuesday confirmed that it had been bought by Google in what's now suspected to be a video chat upgrade to Google Voice. The service earned a reputation for handling custom celebrity phone lines but also for integrating both live and recorded calls into mobile apps and video chats, such as turning recordings into messages in Smule's I Am T-Pain app for the iPhone and letting fans call into a 50 Cent online video event. A source told AllThingsD that these and other features could be integral for an upgrade to Google Voice that would compete with both traditional VoIP and video chat systems from Apple.
The service would be "even better in a world of Skype and FaceTime," the tipster said.
Google already has Android video chat on the way through Android 3.0 and will use Google contacts much in the same way that Gmail supports audio and video conversations. The system mostly operates independently from Google Voice, however, and doesn't have video mail or a particularly advanced voicemail system. Google Voice itself also shed many of the features from before it was acquired by Grand Central, such as custom greetings.
Apple's approach to video chat may provide a slight clue; on the iPhone, it can use phone numbers as contacts for video calls instead of an e-mail address. SayNow could also boost Google's voice-only component through technology from its Big Call app, which can create many-person audio conference calls without having to use dedicated phone rooms.
Neither Google nor SayNow has said what the plans might be after the acquisition.