It was on April 1st 2004 when Google announced its entry into the web mail domain when it launched Gmail. Though it was an invitation only beta release at that point of time, it was later on rolled out to the general public on Feb 2007. Since then Gmail has grown by leaps and bounds and has gone through a ton of changes. On Aug 25th 2010, a new feature was launched which would allow users to call phones directly from their email. It’s a step along the road to the idea of one number that can reach you wherever you are, rather than separate ones for mobile, home and work.
Until now the embedded chat in Gmail was like any other chat application which would let you
• Send messages to friends.
• Have a group conversation with multiple friends.
• Share/embed videos/rich media.
• Computer-to-Computer voice and video chat services.
Making a call from Gmail
- At the top of the chat bar there is a “call phone” option.
- On clicking it a number pad will appear allowing you to dial your desired number and place a phone call.
- Google Talk voice and video plugin is a prerequisite for dialing.
With the latest feature Google hopes to be giving direct competition to Skype and more traditional operators such as AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications. However the bigger threat is to Skype since the mobile operators all over the world have been cutting their call prices in recent years in response to stiff competition.
For any product to click it has to offer something special when compared to other competitors in the same field. Having the VoIP service tie into the Google address book is a perk that could attract new users.
Within 24 hours of its launch the Gmail phone calling feature received a tremendous response with over 1 million phone calls placed according to Google Twitter page. Considering that Gmail has over 180 million users it’s no big deal. For now (end of year) the calls are free within US and Canada.
Evolutionary, NOT Revolutionary
Google has always been known for its innovation. Be it search, email, maps or online video they have taken the world by surprise. Although I won’t call this web calling service an innovation but surely it is going to give more choices to the consumers now as to which service they should opt for. These days the trend is to build unified tools which offer a range of ways to communicate all in one place and Google is not going to be left behind. For any loyal Google user Gmail is an always-open tab with email, contacts, calendar, documents, chat and a lot more integrated in one service. The Web-based telephony client is only going to strengthen the market share of Gmail.
Million Dollar question: Would you be attracted to this service for long or you would just try it out for the novelty factor of placing calls via e-mail inbox? Could Google’s phone service make calling from a computer the new norm???