Is Google the Next AT&T?

Google's acquisition of Gizmo5, an online phone company like Skype, puts the search giant in position to challenge AT&T and Verizon as the most affordable and comprehensive phone company in the country. That's according to Wired, which has the details here. The bottom line is that Google would let you make and receive Internet-based calls that "bypass the per-minute billing on your smartphone."


It's a potent recipe -- take Gizmo5's open standards-based online calling system. Add to it the new ability to route calls on Google's massive network of cheap fiber. Toss in Google Voice's free phone number, which will ring your mobile phone, your home phone and your Gizmo5 client on your laptop.

Then layer on deluxe phone services like free SMS, voicemail transcription, customized call routing, free conference calls and voicemails sent as recordings to your e-mail account, and you have a phone service that competes with Skype, landlines and the Internet telephone offerings from Vonage and cable companies.

That's two straight Google acquisitions I love. Two weeks ago, Google announced that it bought AdMob, a mobile display advertising company that would help Google advertise on smartphones. But Google clearly isn't satisfied to merely advertise on your phone. It wants to run your phone. The new Droid smartphones run on Google's open-source operating system. Combine that will Google Talk and Google Voice apps and you've cornered the market on web-based calling, and advertising.

Yes, I'm way ahead of myself. But hey, we're projecting Internet technology. Isn't that the point?

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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