Google Talk Far From Superior

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Google has a habit of hitting out-of-the-park homeruns, but its new Google Talk instant messaging service is simply a base hit.

The service, introduced on Wednesday, allows Windows users to exchange text and voice messages. Unlike AOL, it doesn't work on a Mac and unlike Skype, you can only exchange voice messages with other PCs – not regular telephones. This is Google's second major announcement in three days. On Monday, the company announced an impressive new version of its desktop search program.

To use the free service you have to download a small (900k) program from

There's nothing wrong with the service. It's a fine instant messaging client and the sound quality is fine.

Click here to listen to Magid put the new Google Talk service to the test in a podcast interview with Google's Georges Harik.

The interview with Harik was conducted using Local Talk and his portion of the conversation was recorded onto a mini-disc before being transferred to a PC for editing.

Still, compared to offerings from other companies it is a so-so product that is unusual for Google.

Any instant messaging product begs to be compared with AIM – AOL Instant Messenger. AOL, which has nearly 42 million users, is clearly the 800-pound gorilla of instant messaging. Unfortunately, AOL is stingy about opening its instant messaging network to software from other companies, with the notable exception of Apple's iChat. That's a factor because people will use the IM program that their friends use.

If Google Talk can't communicate with AIM, then people whose friends or business associates use AIM won't find Google Talk that useful. To be fair, that's AOL's fault not Google's. Harik says that his company is committed to open standards and is in talks with operators of other instant messaging services to encourage "interoperability."