Google Voice Brings Telephone Calls(VoIP) to US and Canada : Google has launched a service that lets Gmail users make free calls from their computers to phones, with the service available to Americans and Canadians.
Unlike Google’s nearly two-year-old Gmail voice and video chat feature, 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 the market for Internet phone service.
Google promises that phone calls will remain free “for at least the rest of the year,” while calls to other countries start at $0.02 per minute. The voice service for Gmail will roll out to users over the next few days. To get started using the service, you will have to install the free “voice and video chat” Web-based service to your Gmail account here.
“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.”
Here’s how it works: First, you’ll need Google’s Voice and Video plug-in. Within Gmail’s “Chat” window, a “Call phone” option will appear. Up pops a little number pad, on which you can dial the phone you’d like to call. Your Google Voice number, if you have one, will appear as the outbound caller ID, and can be used to receive calls within Gmail. Otherwise, a generic number is shown, Search Engine Land reports.
Google’s new voice service is a direct competitor to Skype, which offers various types of internet-based calling services. Skype offers free computer-to-computer calling, as well as paid services that allow users to call landlines and cellphones. Skype is partly owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
While Google may be starting out behind in this race, it has the benefit of its large Gmail user base. 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 Phone” button to appear on their chat list.
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