Report: GMail to Soon Offer VoIP Calls

We've been waiting for Google to implement its Gizmo5 acquistion and turn Google Voice into a true VoIP solution and Skype competitor. However CNET is reporting that Google may be about to offer direct calls (to phones) through GMail:

Google could be ready to turn Gmail into a communications hub by adding the ability to make phone calls from the Google Chat interface.

CNET has learned that Google is testing a Web-based service within Gmail that will allow users to place phone calls from their in-boxes. It's launched from the Google Chat window on the lower left-hand side of a Gmail page and allows users to place and receive calls from within their contacts through a user interface that strongly resembles the one used in Google Voice.

At some point (apparently pretty soon), whether through GMail or Google Voice, Google will make it possible to place and receive calls directly rather than having to rely on an underlying phone number (landline or wireless). That's the moment when Google becomes a carrier/telco. Right now Google Voice is effectively a call-connection service.

Google could soon launch a voice-calling feature within Google Chat that resembles the user interface used in Google Voice.

(credit: CNET)

The image above suggests the system might allow free calls to landlines and mobile phones. Quality is always an issue with VoIP but I would imagine this would become an immediately popular service.

It would also allow all kinds of connected non-phone devices to become phones, in the way that Skype does too. 

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Update: Google announced this feature this morning: 

Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year and calls to other countries will be billed at our very low rates. We worked hard to make these rates really cheap (see comparison table) with calls to the U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan—and many more countries—for as little as $0.02 per minute.

Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click “Call phone” at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

Google will also be promoting Google Voice calls via UK-style red telephone kioks at various sites around the country. 

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