Does contraction lead to expansion?
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is preparing a lot of new offerings this week, after taking a weed whacker to many of its fringe offerings earlier this year.
The leading search engine began sending invites to Google Voice, the free telco service that lets you choose a telephone number that can then be redirected to your other phone devices. Calls that go to voicemail are transcribed and sent to your Gmail account in text form.
It's a pretty nifty service, built on top of the Grand Central service that Google acquired two summers ago. As a Grand Central user, I was grandfathered into the Google Voice beta, and it delivers as advertised. The transcripts are freakishly accurate, though I haven't gotten around to kicking all of the tires.
Taking a page out of the playbook of eBay's (Nasdaq: EBAY ) Skype, users can also place Web-based phone calls through Google Voice. The calls are free within the United States. Overseas rates vary by country, of course, but it's a neat way to help monetize the service and help Google diversify from its reliance on advertising revenue for 98% of its revenue mix.
Another new Google service is City Tours. The Google Labs offering allows users to enter a city or an address, and Google will craft suggested travel itineraries. Attempts to check it out over the past two days have been unsuccessful through Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Internet Explorer on two different computers, but it worked like a champ through Google Chrome and Firefox. You sneaky little devil, Big G!
I punched in my address and was treated to a three-day walking tour around town. The suggested destinations were all museums, but I trust that the service's proposed destinations will get fleshed out over time. I can imagine dining suggestions from sites such as Urban Spoon, Yelp, IAC's (Nasdaq: IACI ) Citysearch, or even the OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN ) dining-reservations platform. Warming up to Ticketmaster (Nasdaq: TKTM ) to smoke out events taking place during a certain time would be awesome, too.
Of course, if City Tours grows, it's going to be more of a threat than an ally to sites such as Citysearch and Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) AOL City Guide.
Google may not have much of a choice, though. Microsoft's Bing is making travel information a key part of its search engine. If it matters to Web users, it's going to matter to Google.
Several months ago, Google was axing some of its offerings, including Lively, Dodgeball, and Google Notebook. It didn't make sense to alienate early adopters to those sites, so I'm glad to see Google widening its menu this week.
Keep going, Google. We're hungry.
Read up on Google: