I’m a power user of both Google Voice and Microsoft Outlook (currently using the 2010 beta version at home). One of the interesting little speed bumps that accompanies the Google Voice service is the fact that, in order to have a phone call to one of your contacts appear as if it’s being initiated from your Google Voice number, you have to dial out to a custom phone number that the Google Voice service provides/assigns to every number you dial.
In other words, let’s say I want to call (999) 888-7777 from my cell phone. And that I want the Caller ID info to display my Google Voice phone number, not my cell phone’s information. In order to do this, I have a few options:
- Dial via the Google Voice browser interface — GV allows me to enter a number from the web interface (or click to call a GV contact), which results first in my phone ringing, and then when I answer it I wait on the line while the service dials the person I am trying to call. GV acts as a sort of automated operator, connecting me and the other party.
- Dial a special unique phone number — Specifically a number assigned by Google Voice, which is a sort of “proxy” number. Typically beginning with area code 406, I have to know the number to dial. If I dial that number, the GV service forwards the call to the proper recipient’s phone number, and their phone rings. Google Voice sends my GV caller ID info to their phone. The problem is, I have to have a way to actually find out this number, and the only practical way to do so is to ask the person to send a text message to my GV phone number. Magically, when they do that GV shows the special (406) number that I need as the number that sent the txt message. It works, but it’s kludgy.
- Use the Google Voice iPhone web app to dial any phone number — This option allows me to dial someone similar to the “proxy number” option above, except that I don’t actually have to know the proxy number ahead of time. Interestingly, the iPhone app sends the recipient’s actual phone number to the GV service, then gets a (406) proxy number back and presents me with a brief dialing to call that number. So, it handles the “What number should I call” problem and doesn’t require me to convince my friend to send me a txt message to find out his or her 406 number.
So — That last option raises some interesting questions. The iPhone/mobile web app is apparently capable of taking, via some API, a phone number and then returning a GV number to dial. Now, I haven’t snooped the network traffic or looked to see how this is actually done under the hood, but it makes me think. Assuming that there’s for sort of API available, how else might I want to use it?
It’s not too much of a stretch: Since I use a GV number for my work number in my home office, it would be *very* useful to me to be able to click on a phone number in Outlook (in an email, in a contact, etc.) and have it dial the (406) number that the GV service can possibly provide. A nice, clean way to dial wherever the number appears on the screen would be great to have. Unfortunately, Office 2010 appears to have removed support for it’s old Phone Number Smart Tag (all smart tags seem to be deprecated, in fact). So how to recognize and hook into phone numbers would be one of many open questions.
I can imagine some other probable complicated moving parts that have to be accounted for (for example, authentication and user context: Does GV appears to assign the same (406) numbers to multiple GV users, but for different numbers. In other words, where a given number in the context of my account might dial 999-888-7777, the same (406) number on another GV account might be assigned to ring 555-444-3333).
But — if it can be done, this seems like something that people would be willing to buy for say, $9.95 or so a pop. I know I would. Or maybe Google should build it an ship it for free, just to push adoption and gain some traction among the Outlook-anchored crowd.
To read more about this sort of thing, checking out the iPad, downloading the latest version of BlackBerry Messenger, holiday reflections, or whatever else Greg Hughes feels like talking about, you should drop by his blog. He may not update daily, but the wait’s always worth it!