Google voice chat not ready for business--or is it?

Google's low-cost Internet calling service may prove to be a serious money-saver for businesses.

Google's new Gmail calling may be a great way for consumers to make free and low-cost voice calls, but the service isn't quite ready for business customers using Google Apps, the search giant's suite of cloud-based productivity programs.

That's the word from Google Voice product manager Vincent Paquet, who told reporters on Wednesday at a San Francisco news conference that, at least for now, Gmail voice calling isn't available to enterprises that have made the move to Google Apps.

That will change, however. While administrative tools that would allow IT departments to manage Gmail voice chat aren't here today, they'll arrive--eventually. According to InformationWeek, Paquet suggested that Gmail calling--potentially a big money-saver for businesses--is part of Google's grand voice-calling strategy. No timetable for a business rollout was given, however.

Even without Google Apps integration, Gmail video and voice chat can save business users money, particularly smaller shops that make a lot of browser-based calls to overseas landline and mobile phones.

Taking a not-so-subtle swipe at Skype, the leader in voice-over-IP (VoIP) calling, Google says its international rates undercut those of a "leading internet telephone provider." For instance, Google charges 15 cents per minute for calls to mobile phones in France. By comparison, Skype's pay-as-you-go plan for Francophiles costs 20.3 cents per minute.

Skype, however, offers numerous cost-cutting service bundles, including a $10.29/month plan for 60 minutes of calls to landline and mobile phones in France. That comes out to 17.2 cents per minute. Yes, that's still higher than Google's offering, but the difference may not be great enough to persuade Skype users to switch to Gmail voice. Google, of course, will no doubt offer a slate of bargain bundles of its own.

Even if Skype users don't jump ship, Google can attain a sizable voice-calling market share simply by signing up business and consumer users that haven't yet tried Skype or competing VoIP services. Indeed, Google's tempting pitch--Gmail integration and dirt-cheap calling--is bound to resonate with cost-cutters everywhere.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter http://twitter.com/jbertolucci or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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