Posts categorized "Google"

Google+ Turns Hangouts Into a Free Conference Calling Service With Free Voice Calls in US and Canada

Fascinating move by Google today... Google+ now allows you to add voice-only phone calls into a "Hangout", allowing you to create conference calls of both video and voice participants. Announced by Googler Jarkko Oikarinen, it is available inside of "Hangout with extras" and allows voice calls out to US and Canadian numbers for free.

When I launched a Hangout (with extras) and then chose the link to invite others, I was presented with an extremely simple screen to add a voice call:


Once the participant had joined, they showed up in the hangout screen above the video participants (only me in this trial case):

Google Plus Hangout With Voice

No word that I've seen yet on a maximum number of people that can be conferenced into a Google+ Hangout, but I'm sure someone will try that out shortly and we'll have an answer.

UPDATE: Jarkko Oikarinen has clarified in a comment to his post that "each hangout participant can have at most two simultaneous PSTN calls ongoing." From that wording I'm guessing that I could call out to 2 people on the PSTN, and another participant could call out to two more, and so on...

Calls are limited to the US and Canada, although TechCrunch is reporting that Google recommends Google Voice for low rates on international calls.

Now, mixing voice and video calls together is not something dramatically new. Skype has done this for quite some time now within their Group Video Calling service. Still, it's a cool step forward for Google+ and may provide an way to get more people using the Hangouts service.

At the very least, it may provide a way for some of the folks using Hangouts as a way of hosting regular video podcasts to include guests or callers who are not able to establish a video connection or use Hangouts directly. I'm thinking particularly of people who may be mobile or in places with low bandwidth. Or just simply a guest who doesn't want to use video or isn't a user of Google+.

Free conference calls?

I suspect some folks may certainly use this as a way to create free conference calls. As I proved in my own testing, only the originator of the Hangout needs to use the Hangouts feature of Google+. He or she can then simply call everyone else and bring them into the conference call.

However, given that

  1. you can't yet choose from a list of contacts and have to instead enter each phone number individually; and

  2. people can't call in to the hangout; and

  3. per the update above, each participant can only conference in 2 PSTN callers.

I don't expect people to instantly stop using the zillion conference calling services out there. However, it certainly shows a sign of Google's direction and given the rate of change within Google+ I wouldn't be surprised to see enhancements to, for instance, at least store phone numbers coming at some point soon.

It would be very cool if there was a way to start a Hangout with a Circle... and have Google+ automagically connect out everyone in the circle via either video or phone... but who knows, that may come, too!

P.S. And if you are on Google+, why not add me to a circle if you haven't already done so?

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Oops... Posted to the Wrong Site... See the Correct Link here

Oops... this post about Google Wave is really over at Disruptive Conversations: (Keeping this post up because it already went out in social networks...)

Did Amazon Just Fork The Android Operating System?

Did Amazon just fork the Android operating system with their Kindle Fire? That's the question asked at Mashable today in a post "Amazon Kindle Fire Just Hijacked Android where it was noted that all the promotion around the Kindle Fire did not mention Android. The key piece to me is this:

Amazon is not the first company to use Android for its devices, only to customize the UI and add its own App Store...

Still, Amazon’s customization of Android goes above and beyond re-theming the interface. Amazon has created its own apps for email, video playback (using Amazon Instant Video), music and books...

Amazon is using Android 2.3 as its base, not the tablet-specific Honeycomb, and we expect that the company has taken the opportunity to optimize 2.3 specifically for the Kindle Fire’s hardware.

Likewise, instead of applying tweaks to the basic Android web browser, Amazon chose to build its own: Amazon Silk...

The tragedy here is that the Amazon Kindle Fire will undoubtedly be a very popular device. At $199, I can see many people picking these devices up.

And it could be a great opportunity to bolster the Android ecosystem.

To encourage and nurture a further competitive marketplace for apps.

But the challenge is stated well in the Mashable piece:

We expect Amazon to start courting Android developers to make customized Kindle Fire-specific versions of their apps.

It's not an Android device... it's an Amazon device. And though it may use Android as a base, it has a highly customized layer on top.

Do we now have effectively yet another application ecosystem?

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Google Chrome Rolls Out Web Audio API Support: Audio Processing in JavaScript

GooglechromeblogFascinating news out of the Google Chrome team yesterday: the latest developer build of Google Chrome now supports audio signal processing directly in JavaScript!

To say that more simply… right now to do good audio communication on the web, you have to use plugins built in Flash, QuickTime or Java. This Web Audio API aims to let you do much of that audio control via JavaScript and HTML5. From the specification intro:

Audio on the web has been fairly primitive up to this point and until very recently has had to be delivered through plugins such as Flash and QuickTime. The introduction of the audio element in HTML5 is very important, allowing for basic streaming audio playback. But, it is not powerful enough to handle more complex audio applications. For sophisticated web-based games or interactive applications, another solution is required. It is a goal of this specification to include the capabilities found in modern game audio engines as well as some of the mixing, processing, and filtering tasks that are found in modern desktop audio production applications.

The Web Audio API specification, which is a proposal for a standard being discussed in the W3C's Audio Working Group includes a set of example applications, including multi-player games like Quake, musical examples and more.

If you want to live on the edge with the "Beta Channel" of Google Chrome builds (I do), you can even go over to Google's page of Web Audio examples to try it out yourself.

It's great to see this support in Google Chrome as it can help us continue the move away from proprietary browser plugins to more standards-based solutions - and through that to a more open Internet. Kudos to the Google team for rolling out the support - I'm looking forward to seeing what people build with it!

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Google's "Calling From Gmail" Aims to Disrupt International Calling - 38 countries, 4 currencies

Fascinating move by Google... they've now expanded "Calling from Gmail" to 38 countries, opened up payment into 4 currencies (US Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Euros or British Pounds), and lowered their calling rates to over 150 "destinations" around the world. If you aren't familiar with "Calling from GMail", it's the green phone icon you may have inside your Gmail inbox:


I'm showing the phone "popped out" of the browser window, but normally it just appears inside your browser window and lets you search your contacts or dial new numbers.

Personally, I find that most of my international calling (and actually most of my calling, period) is done via Skype... but for those who want to reach people internationally on regular mobile phones (or (GASP!) landlines) this could offer another cheap option.

Similarly, if you live in Google products (something more people are exploring now that Google+ is here), this provides a great way to stay within Google-land and make your phone calls. While I am a Gmail user, I read all my email offline so I never use the web interface... so I don't see me using this, but many will, I'm sure.

Sadly, there seems to be no way to call SIP addresses, so for those of us who want to break the shackles of all the legacy PSTN limitations and, for instance, have calls in rich wideband/HD audio, "calling from Gmail" still won't cut it.

Google provides a simple rate chart (click "show all rates" to see the full list) and says in their blog post:

For example, it’s now only $0.10 (or €0.08) per minute to call mobile phones in the U.K., France or Germany (landlines are $0.02/min), $0.15/minute to call mobile phones in Mexico and $0.02/min to call any phone number in China and India.

They also note:

Calls to the U.S. or Canada placed within those countries will continue to be free at least for the rest of 2011. Calls to the U.S. or Canada placed from outside these countries will be charged $0.01 per minute (or €0.01, £0.01, C$0.01 per minute).

Google being Google they also provide a nice happy video:

All in all it looks like an interesting offering for people who live in the Google web interface. And it all continues to add pressure to that international dialing market...

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Google TechTalk: A Brief Prehistory of Voice over IP

Want to understand the history of Voice over IP (VoIP)? To learn about the various protocols and standards efforts that got us to where we are today?

Shawn Merdinger recently posted to the VOIPSEC mailing list the link to this Google Tech Talk back in August 2010 about the history of VoIP. The video runs close to 2 hours but provides a really good background in terms of the protocols and efforts starting with ARPA work back in the 1970's and moving up to today... well worth a viewing if you want to gain some historical context for where we are today.

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Summary: Links to Posts on Calling Google Voice using SIP

GooglevoiceGiven that I'll be the guest on today's VUC call in about an hour discussing this topic, here's a list of some of the posts involved in the recent saga around Google Voice and SIP.

On Saturday, March 5, 2011, Todd Vierling pointed out that you could call Google Voice Numbers via a SIP URI:

Unaware of Todd's post, but seeing mention of this SIP calling in tweets from Aswath Rao and Alok Saboo, I started what became a series of posts on Monday, March 7:

wherein the service was working... then it wasn't... then it was... etc.

At this precise moment in time, the service IS working for me, although when I just tried it took quite some time for my SIP softphone to actually start getting a ring. But the connection did work.

Also of interest, Todd Vierling put up a great post earlier on March 4 about what we really want/need for two-way Google Voice-to-SIP interconnect and what we are losing with the end of Gizmo:

I love how Todd links to the many open tickets in Google support asking for SIP support.

Additionally, Alok Saboo put up two posts with tutorials about how to configure both a Blink client and a Yate client to call into Google Voice via SIP.

The saga will of course continue... there's obviously interest... and Google's been silent on the whole matter so at the end of the day we really don't know what their plans may or may not be.

UPDATE - Nov 13, 2012: The interest in Google Voice and SIP addresses seems to continue, as I noted in a post about the large number of visits still coming to the site for this series of articles.

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Join Today's VUC Call at Noon US Eastern To Talk About Google Voice and SIP

VucWant to join a discussion about the whole issue with Google Voice and SIP? And what we might want to really have in terms of SIP interconnect with Google Voice? And, while we're there, want to talk about the latest changes in the mobile carrier space?

If so, join the VUC conf call happening in 90 minutes at 12 noon US Eastern. Randy, the host of VUC, asked me if I would come on as the guest and I did agree. Of course, that was before I was hit with a brutal cold this week... but I'm getting better to the point where I should be able to talk fine (if a bit funny-sounding) on the call.

You can join the live call via SIP, Skype or the regular old PSTN. There is also an IRC backchannel that gets heavy usage during the call. It will be recorded so you can always listen later.

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Google Voice Via SIP - Not Dead Yet... (The Saga Continues)

GooglevoiceSo maybe calling into Google Voice via SIP isn't as dead as I thought it was... multiple people have now left comments to my original posts indicating that they could call into their Google Voice number via SIP. And sure enough... I can do so now, too.

Yet to be seen, of course, is how long this actually continues to work this time. Will it be an actual ongoing service? Or is this just another burst of connectivity that will fade again?

We'll see, eh?

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Google Voice Via SIP - It's Dead, Jim

GooglevoiceSo there it is... connecting to a Google Voice number via a SIP address no longer works for me, too. After I wrote on Monday about how you could connect to Google Voice numbers via a SIP URI, many folks said that the service wasn't working for them... or did work and then stopped. So many folks were reporting issues on Twitter or blogs that I asked yesterday if Google was hanging up on SIP connections to GV numbers.

Through it all, though, my ability to call Google Voice numbers via SIP kept working perfectly fine, while it stopped working (or never worked) for pretty much everyone else who had tried it. (except for one other person who saved my sanity!) Several people on Twitter thought I must have some kind of "magic"... but all I knew was that it kept on working.

Until this morning.

It's dead now.

Using SJphone to call the exact same number that has worked fine for the past two days now only gets me a constant ringing.

So whatever "magic" I may have had is gone... gone, gone, gone...

Let's hope that Google will in fact bring back this capability... and maybe even go on to provide the other side of SIP interoperability that Todd Vierling wrote about (and others have agitated around for some time). The key point being to let us point our Google Voice numbers to SIP endpoints in addition to regular PSTN phone numbers.

It was great, Google, to get a taste of SIP interconnection to Google Voice... if only for a few days. Can you please bring it back? And even make it better?

We're out here waiting...

P.S. For those not understanding the "It's Dead, Jim" reference in the title, it goes back to the original Star Trek.

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