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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google launches voice chat for gmail users and google talk users (and why I'm not going to use it)

Once more, winds of innovation come from Mountain View. Google has launched another offensive against Microsoft and... Skype. Yes, because it just added new voice and video call support into google chat and gmail.

Since the first time I saw the spartan google search engine main page, I felt sympathy for Google and the quality of its software (well, google software I use) never deceived me. I'm not the average user: as soon as I login I open a terminal window and start typing, rather than moving a mouse. Even in gmail I use the keyboard interface. The real Google revolution, in my opinion, it's in the fact that even in a world in which the great majority of the host operating systems is Windows (sadly), when an user logs in he usually opens up a browser and "googles" for something, looks for addresses or routes in Google maps, manages its photos with Picasa, writes its blog with Google docs and shares it with blogger, etc. Summarizing: the real desktop, for many people, is made up of a browser and Google software.

When people realize that they can speak and see their friends at the eyes without even leaving the gmail tab in their browsers, they'll probably uninstall (or leave there to rot) their copies of Skype or similar software. This is partially true, in reality, because Skype users often call landlines phones but at the end, there'll be a reason less to rely on Skype or Microsoft Messenger.

I'll be clear: I like what Google does, and I like the way Google does it, most of the times. I use Google software every day and, as far as it concerns my out-of-business activities, Google is probably the provider of most of the software I use. Google search engine, Gmail, Google docs, Google calendar, Google reader and so on: they're all part of the toolbox I use every day. I don't even feel like making the list, because probably I could just cut and past the list of Google software and remove a few entries.

Now, why am I not going to use it, then? Well, I would really like to explore this new functionality and satisfy my (technical and non) curiosity without having to look for information on the net. But I can not, because I'm a 95% Solaris user and the remaining 5% I'm a GNU/Linux user. And the beta version of this service, which relies on a browser plugin, is only available for Windows users and I'm not hoping to see it, ever, on Solaris. Just as it happens with Skype and many other proprietary software. If I were a 100% GNU/Linux user, moreover, I would probably be disappointed: my experience with GNU/Linux versions of some software bundles (such as Skype) is negative. Skype for Linux sucks (even more when compared with Windows or Mac OS X editions), and Picasa for Linux is even worse: I never thought I would see a customized Wine distribution to run a Windows binary on GNU/Linux, and less if who's doing this is Google. And I won't talk about Apple, who left us without Quicktime even if it ported ZFS on Mac OS X ;)

I won't trade off the proverbial stability of my Solaris for another OS. Neither I'll run (yet another) branded zone just to play with that plugin. I'll stick with VoIP and you, who can, enjoy.

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