GTalk and the Enterprise

Google_talk Adopted by users that value tight integration with GMail and support for relatively painless voice chat, Google Talk has always been a bit light on conventional features. The service has failed to generate a significant user base and lags far behind competing services offered by AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo. For the month of June, GTalk has a mere 44,000 users within the United States, compared to AOL’s 47 million and Microsoft’s 22 million. AOL and Microsoft are both aggressively engaged in expanding the scope of their chat services, a factor that will probably continue to hamper adoption of GTalk. AIM Pro and Windows Live Messenger both transcend the typical boundaries of conventional instant messaging and include support for a wide variety of other services and features, from calendar and address book support to tighter integration of voice and video chat. Instant messaging applications are rapidly becoming the streamlined nexus of Internet communication as the various contenders strive to make their software a more pervasive element of the user’s Internet experience.

Making GTalk a success

In order to remain relevant in the instant messaging arena, Google must vigorously leverage the unique advantages of its other offerings and focus on feature-matching its competitors. The latest additions to the application are promising, and confirm that Google isn’t asleep at the wheel in the increasingly-important instant messaging space, but are they enough? Voice chat is on the verge of ubiquity, and it is no longer a major selling point. In order to compel users to abandon their current favorites, Google needs a killer feature to generate press and put it back on the map and ahead of the curve.

GTalk would be in a stronger position if it was better equipped to meet the needs of corporate users. According to the Radicati Group, over 85 percent of businesses use instant messaging on a regular basis. By introducing features desirable to business users, Google could gain a useful foothold in a lucrative market. What features might appeal to corporate users? I think that collaboration tools for virtual meetings, integrated support for Google Calendar and common groupware platforms, and a built-in RSS feed reader would definitely make the application more appealing.

Despite numerous other deficiencies, GTalk’s growing support for mobile platforms is very promising. Recently added BlackBerry support as well as upcoming support for Nokia’s Linux-based 770 web tablet will definitely help Google expand the user population of the service. This is definitely something that Google should build on.

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