Google Phone…not ready for new media prime time

Aside from looking for new ways to produce in the new media space, I’m constantly looking for what works, what doesn’t and why (to paraphrase Howard Fine). Google Voice doesn’t work just yet, and the why is very interesting.

What is Google Phone? it’s a new VOIP calling feature Google recently added to its free Gmail email service, and gives you free U.S. and Canada calling. A new button in the Gmail interface, “Call Phones,” pulls up a keypad with a box where you can dial any number you like, or search your Gmail Contacts list and dial from that. You’ll have to download a plug in (fairly hefty at 7 megabytes) to use the new Call Phone menu item in Gmail.

Sounds great, right?

Except, so far, I’ve yet to connect with any phone I’ve tried. I get a ring, then another ring (which means Google’s actually lying to you about the connection being made), and then eventually the target phone will ring. When you answer, the line’s dead, and my computer is still ringing. Very, very bad.

Why doesn’t it work? Because in the mad rush to bring this product to market, Google didn’t test it very well. Not that Google cares about testing before bringing a product to market – they know that their gazillions of users will test it for them. They’ll complain on message boards (Google’s idea of customer support), and eventually, someone at the Googleplex will read those messages and decide whether or not they want to do anything about it.

Because, hey…it’s free, right? In new media, you sometimes get what you pay for. And by sometimes, I mean usually.

So don’t start thinking you’re going to be relying on this new feature to stay in touch with cast and crew, or agent and CD. Not until someone reads the Google message boards.

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