Google Voice's Skype competitor leaked? Unlikely

TechCrunch got their hands on a copy of what could become the Google Voice desktop app. But the prevailing understanding positions VoIP as a Web-based service.

A peek at Google Voice for the desktop?
A Google Voice desktop app would compete against Skype's VoIP software. (Credit: TechCrunch/Michael Arrington; Screenshot by CNET)

Ever since Google bought up VoIP company Gizmo5 last November, there's been conjecture over how exactly it is planning to fit in Gizmo5's VoIP capabilities as the missing piece to the Google Voice telephony service.

Last week, the folks over at TechCrunch got their hands on a leaked version of Google-branded version of the Gizmo5 VoIP app for Mac.

TechCrunch reported that although the app looks like the original Gizmo5 client, Google has done work to integrate it with the Google Voice address book.

What's unclear is the direction that Google intends to take with VoIP now that it has it. While most competing VoIP products are desktop-based--such as Skype, VoxOx, and ooVoo--the prevailing understanding is that Google will keep VoIP in the cloud.

Google has relatively few desktop apps--Google Chrome, Google Talk, Google Earth, Google SketchUp, and Google Desktop are notable exceptions--so it wouldn't be unreasonable to believe that Google could also release a desktop version of a VoIP product, especially since Gizmo5 desktop backbone already exists. A Google-wrought VoIP service that links desktop features with Google Voice's calling service could potentially threaten Skype, which is nudging its desktop app into new territory with a basic screensharing feature.

Yet, since TechCrunch is uncertain if the copy it received is at all recent, and in light of Google's stated preference for keeping VoIP in the cloud, TechCrunch's discovery of the app may already be moot or overblown--though there are petitions you can sign, like this one, to agitate for a desktop version of Google Voice.

What isn't overblown is the public anticipation of VoIP in Google Voice, which, among other things, would let international users in on what's essentially a service limited to U.S. residents. We wouldn't be surprised to see VoIP rolled in as yet another cloud-based Google Voice service.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.