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rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Google Apps becomes 1st class citizen

Thursday I logged into my Google Apps for Domains “manage this domain” page.  I was surprised to find an option to migrate my account to work more like a standard Google account.  I’ve complained about this in the past and am glad they’ve resolved it.

24 hours later and my GAFD account worked as a logon – and more importantly, my account was integrated – with just about everything.  14 hours after that and I even have my Google Voice account and phone number ported into my GAFD account.

Awesome.

A couple of points:

  1. Once you migrate your accounts, it will appear that you need separate browsers for your accounts.  You don’t, you just need to read the following and do what it says for each of your accounts:  http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?answer=182343
  2. If you want to move your Google Voice account, fill out this form: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=cjlWRDFTWERkZEIxUzVjSmNsN0ExU1E6MA.  They say it could take two weeks, but for me it was 14 hours.

GAFD being more integrated is actually a great help because I’m now managing one fewer contact list.  Now I’m just hoping for a Google desktop app that can take calls.

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GMail as a Skype replacement? Nope . . .

Over the last couple of months I have started to rely on Google Voice (GV) and have been eagerly awaiting the integration of VOIP with Google Voice.  My current solution of using GV with Skype is almost perfect, but I am hoping that Google VOIP can eliminate the pesky “where’s my voicemail” problem with Skype.

Anyway, this new Google feature was enabled on my account yesterday.  While it holds some promise for me once GV is moved into GAFD, it has too many caveats today.  Why?

Because the in-browser VOIP phone is a flawed premise for receiving calls:

  • Hunting for the incoming call dialog within a browser tab is a terrible user experience.  Perhaps they can fix this through an extension that allows a non-modal, “always on top” popup for notification of incoming calls. 
  • What if your browser stops working, is restarted, etc?  You don’t get your phone call.  Of course, you can say the same thing for the Skype client (i.e., if it isn’t running you don’t get your call), but I restart my browsers several times a day.  And browsers crash a lot more than Skype (or Google Talk), for that matter. 

Google really should resuscitate the Google Talk client – or the Google Voice Desktop App – and enable the same functionality there.  In fact, I’ll go further and say that they will have to release a native Windows client if they want enterprise adoption of GV / VOIP.

Granted, the in-browser premise is great for the casual user, making outgoing calls, or as a backup when away from your actual work environment, but it just doesn’t work as a Skype replacement.

Does anyone know if the the GV Desktop App is actually dead?  The last reference I find to it is the Arrington post: Google Voice Desktop App Launch Delayed, May Be Scrapped.

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Please make GAFD a first class citizen

I control my online identity as much as I can.  I don’t like using email addresses / identities that are controlled by a vendor.  Like phone # portability, this allows me to switch vendors when I want without (much) disruption.  That is the main reason I host my blog and email on my own domain.  I used to maintain my own servers to do that (literally in-house).  Then I moved them to a hosting company.  Then I moved email to Google Apps for Domains (GAFD). 

GAFD is pretty cool.  It allows you to put many services (i.e., mail, calendar, docs, sites, chat) behind your own domain.  Other Google services don’t exactly fit this model, and so they aren’t supported.  For example while App Engine does allow you to use your own domain, you probably don’t need to host your App Engine development portal from within your domain.  Not too big a deal.

But for the services that use your contact list (e.g., Voice, Wave, and Reader), I really don’t want to use my GMail address and certainly not the contacts list I have there.

I am at a loss to understand why Google doesn’t have a corporate policy that products must support GAFD.  Isn’t GAFD an important part of Google’s business model?  Obviously not as important as trying to sell us things we don’t want, but certainly strategic against Microsoft.

What gives?

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