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Where does a WhatsApp acquisition fit into Google’s new messaging plan?

Everyone who follows Google services, specifically their messaging products, is waiting for the inevitable release of the company’s new messaging platform. While signs may point to Google being ready to launch, news of a closed door negotiation with WhatsApp may change the course of the upcoming unified communications tool.

According to several sources, Google appears to be in closed door negotiations to purchase the popular unified messaging platform WhatsApp for one billion dollars. If you’ve never used the app, it serves as a great SMS alternative that works across every major mobile platform. You can group SMS with iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry with a very similar experience on each mobile OS. It’s all done over data, so you aren’t paying for SMS from a carrier. The end result is really great… as long as you can convince all of your friends to use WhatsApp.

The big assumption here is that Google is looking to integrate WhatsApp into their unified messaging platform. On paper that makes sense. After all, the only thing better than a unified messaging platform for Android would be a unified messaging platform for everything, and Google+ Messenger is the only one of Google’s chat services that exists anywhere but Android or the web. There’s the potential for a lot of good to come from that, provided Google purchases WhatsApp and is able to just paste it into the company’s existing app. There is not a great chance of that being how this is going to work, if it is indeed going to happen at all.

SMS (actual SMS, not data-only messaging) and, more specifically, Google Voice, are missing pieces of the puzzle for both Google’s upcoming platform and WhatsApp. The ability to message short codes between carriers and platforms is a prime example of something missing from from each of these services. As a result, standalone SMS still has to exist as a separate system, even if it is controlled by the carriers. Accepting for a moment that Google thinks WhatsApp is as valuable to their existing setup as Instagram was to Facebook, it seems more likely we’ll see the benefits of this rumored acquisition after Google’s own messaging product is launched because slapping WhatsApp into Babble won’t solve this core problem.

WhatsApp Google

Google is likely more interested in the talent behind WhatsApp, and the huge international audience the app currently has, rather than the service itself. If you are looking for a reference point, ask a GrandCentral user how much they like Google Voice, because that’s pretty much exactly what happened with that acquisition as well. GrandCentral users got merged into Google Voice, the existing service they had been using was shut down, and the new service lacked several features that Google deemed no longer necessary. The developers who were working on GrandCentral at the time were pushed into Google’s existing structure, and the merger was complete.

What would the talent be for exactly? Right now the majority of WhatsApp users are either on iOS or Android, and Google has plenty of experience making apps for both. For Google to spend any real time working on Symbian, Windows Phone, or BlackBerry 10 app would be a little hard to imagine. In fact in recent months Google has pulled support for Google Voice and other apps from both Windows Phone and BlackBerry. What few users there were enjoying those services have likely moved to WhatsApp or BlackBerry Messenger, but they have already learned the hard way what happens when Google decides you aren’t worth supporting.

Google’s upcoming messaging app has been in testing phases for months. According to several sources who reported this news to Geek.com previously, the app has been in use by just about all of Google for a little while now. The app is already tied into existing services, which is why we’re seeing the occasional error show up across Google’s services. There’s already a Play Store URL for the app. The only thing stopping Google from pulling the trigger right now is Google, so maybe this WhatsApp merger is for what happens next, not what happens next week.

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