Updated: Google is finally testing out its Click-to-Call system. (Greg Yardley first reported this news, but I have been slow in getting around to it.) It has been a long time coming. I have been waiting for this since I wrote this piece in September. I believe this is the right strategy for the company to extend its core competence: attaching ads to anything that can be served up as a web-page.
The text ad model had been getting a long in the tooth, and perhaps voice is the application that will help them attract local advertisers. It will also put them on equal footing with Microsoft, which recently showed off their click-to-call offering. Mind you, it lacks the ability to display locations on the maps with click-to-call features built in, at lease for now. (If anyone has seen map-based ads with click to call, do let me know!) The new ad-system also allows them to compete with eBay-Skype.
Here’s how it works: When you click the phone icon, you can enter your phone number. Once you click ‘Connect For Free,’ Google calls the number you provided. When you pick up, you hear ringing on the other end as Google connects you to the other party. Then, chat away on our dime.
As Rick pointed out, this doesn’t seem to be as true a click to call as the one I saw at Microsoft’s demo, I am pretty certain it uses the VoIP technology to transport the calls to the point where it hits the PSTN network. I am waiting for the experts like Aswath to write in. This does not leverage the desktop client. Okay does this service remind you of the switchboard operators of the yore ;-)
It seems to be a limited beta. Incase you folks were wondering who that third party supplying technology for this service, I will get that information to you tomorrow after I confirm the name of the company. I know which one it is, but still want to make sure before I get the word out!