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Google gives Voice to 'open standard Skype'

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Google has acquired VoIP startup Gizmo5, intending to roll the company's engineers into the team that develops the telephony application/controversy magnet known as Google Voice.

Whereas Gizmo5 offers Skype-like software for calling people over the interwebs, Google Voice is a special telephony thingy that lets you use a single phone number for multiple phones - and turn your voice mails into emails. "While we don't have any specific features to announce right now, Gizmo5's engineers will be joining the Google Voice team to continue improving the Google Voice and Gizmo5 experience," reads a post on the official Google Voice blog.

Google Voice is itself the child of an acquisition. It was first developed by GrandCentral, a startup Google gobbled up in 2007.

Last month, during Google's third-quarter earnings call, CEO Eric Schmidt told the world the company was pulling out its checkbook now that the recession is supposedly over. "We believe the worst of the recession is behind us and now feel confident about investing heavily in our future," he said. The Gizmo5 buy marks the ad giant's second acquisition in the four weeks since.

Last week, Google said it would acquire the mobile advertising outfit AdMob in a deal worth $750m. The company will use stock to purchase the company, before using cash to buy back $750m in shares so that the deal won't dilute the value of its stock. This will be the first time the company has executed such a buy-back.

Google Voice sits at the heart of not one but two ongoing controversies. Google nemesis AT&T has argued that Voice violates Google's beloved net neutrality, while Apple is under investigation by the FCC for rejecting Voice's entry into its iPhone app store.

According to the Gizmo5 homepage, the VoIP service can already be used in tandem with Google Voice. Google has now closed Gizmo5 to new users, but existing users can continue to use the service. Existing users cannot, however, sign up for new call-in numbers.

Unlike Skype, the Gizmo5 network is based on open standards: the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). XMPP is what underpins Google Wave, the company's new-age communication and collaboration thingy. ®

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