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So Google is going to compete with Skype. If you weren't signed up to the GrandCentral service the company acquired, forget it - as per the info on this link, the service is only available for existing customers right now.

All the same, it's an interesting move. At the moment Skype, owned by eBay, is the default VoIP solution for most domestic customers. Businesspeople need something a little more serious.

Google could perceive itself as that serious player. I'm less interested in the impact of this announcement on the home user - they'll end up using something and paying very little for it, it'll happen and they'll wonder why they considered doing otherwise. It's the fact that Google has been pretty hot on promoting its Apps product to the business market that's going to make a difference, albeit a slow one at first.

And it will be slow because in spite of Google Apps and the hype, whenever you ask people - no matter how enthusiastically they claim they're using Docs or Apps - what their default word processor is, they tend to say 'Word' without thinking. They will, they confirm, switch to Docs or Apps when the market's moving towards cloud computing (and no doubt in a week when Google Mail hasn't had a couple of outages, as it has this week).

The idea that Google will be any more successful as a phone provider than as an office automation provider in the short term is unproven and frankly I have my doubts. Longer term, though, as a generation gets used to leaving these things to the cloud, it could be that we've just seen a change that's going to be as significant as when Microsoft's Windows 1.0 first schlepped out of Redmond, Mass.

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