These days, any office must have a unified communications system in place in order to compete. Years ago this could have been accomplished by installing a series of linked landline phones with conference call capabilities. Now, however, services like Google Voice allow users to ditch their landlines and receive calls directly on their smartphones. Companies currently spend as much as $75 billion per year on Internet voice systems. This figure is expected to increase as disruptive startups take unified communications into the cloud.
For instance, Silicon Valley’s Switch Communications recently released a service that replaces all employees’ phone numbers with a single app that works on whatever device they choose. Simply called Switch, the service would allow a person to accept a call while they’re walking in to work and then easily transfer it to the PC-connected headset at their desk. What’s more, Switch then searches the employee’s Google Apps and pulls up any data available on the caller, such as emails or shared files. And without the need to install an expensive landline, the Switch system costs as much as 40 percent less than what IT professionals have been paying for similar services.
Although it’s a brand new company, Switch has grown rapidly thanks to its close connection to Google. In 2006 co-founder Craig Walker created the first “one-number-that-rings-everywhere-at-once” service that eventually turned into Google Voice. He’s stayed close to the company ever since, with Google Ventures being one of Switch’s biggest investors. The tech giant isn’t backing Walker just because they like him, though. Google hopes that Switch will also weaken companies’ long-held dependence on Microsoft Office. Since Switch connects with Google apps like Gmail, Drive and Hangouts, the company hopes that its clients will eventually turn away from Microsoft Office in favor of Google’s app suite. But with a number of other startups competing with Switch for the same market, the company first needs to focus on building a client base for its flagship service.
- Will landline phone systems continue to exist in the next five years?
- Will Google be able to unseat Microsoft in office usage?