If there’s one thing it seems really difficult to accuse Google of, it’s not giving users enough ways to communicate with each other. We’ve got Google Mail, Voice, Hangouts (above), and Google+, not to mention self-publishing tools like Blogger. With all these options, it almost seems ridiculous to think about adding new ones, but that very well may be what Google’s up to right now, as rumors suggest that it’s putting together a new platform for instant messaging.
The big difference compared to existing offerings, especially in light of pressure these past few years to get everyone on Google+, is that this new IM service wouldn’t require the use of a Google account – at all. There would also be a big focus on Indian smartphone users, a base that’s sure to grow as the Android One effort gains traction.
Really, the whole thing is being framed as a response to Google’s failure to pick up WhatsApp, letting Facebook get its hands on the app for a dump truck full of money this past winter. In theory, Google making this new IM service available for free could make it more appealing than WhatsApp with its (admittedly cheap) ongoing service charges. But could it differentiate itself enough from other free IM apps (including its own Hangouts) to make an impact? We may start finding out next year, when this project is rumored to launch.