Ring! It's Gmail's new voice feature calling

Taking a stab at Skype, Google enables Gmail users to make phone calls over the Net

Google announced Wednesday it is offering the ability to make phone calls over the Internet via its popular Gmail service.

Unlike Google's nearly two-year-old Gmail voice and video chat, which gives users an audio and visual experience online, the new calling feature allows users to dial phone numbers. With this move, Google is competing with Skype , which has long dominated this area.

"Starting today, you can call any phone right from Gmail ," wrote Robin Schriebman, a Google software engineer in a blog post . "We've been testing this feature internally and have found it to be useful in a lot of situations, ranging from making a quick call to a restaurant, to placing a call when you're in an area with bad reception."

Schriebman explained that making a phone call through Gmail works just like a normal phone. Users can click "Call phone" at the top of their chat list and enter a number or a contact name. She added that calls to anyone in the U.S. and Canada will be free "at least for the rest of the year." She said "very low rates" have been set up for calls to other countries .

So, does Google have the muscle to make Gmail a Skype killer?

Skype, a 7-year-old company, is used by individuals and companies to make video and voice calls over the Internet. According to Skype, its users made 6.4 billion minutes of calls in the first half of 2010.

While Google may be starting out behind in this competition, it has the benefit of its large Gmail user base.

"Skype could get hurt by this," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "Skype has been offering the ability to call land lines and cell phones for years now. But having it integrated into Google's Gmail and, assumedly, their other offerings down the road, is quite an extension for Google."

Olds added that Google, always on the lookout for new streams of revenue, is looking to expand its reach over their customers and to move into complementary markets that will draw more revenue.

"Adding voice calls to their existing product set enhances the user experience and keeps people using Google apps longer and more frequently," Olds said. "It also keeps people from using another service like Skype, and it certainly may prompt some defections from Skype. Google definitely has the scale and reach to put a big dent in Skype if Google can deliver on the service side."

The voice calling feature is expected to be rolled out to U.S.-based users over the next few days, according to Google. Users will need to install Google's voice and video plug-in and watch for the "Call Phones" button to appear on their chat list.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

Read more about networking in Computerworld's Networking Topic Center.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags e-commerceGoogleNetworkingInternet Searchinternetsearch engines

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?