Google has announced Gmail voice and video chat for US-based users. Gmail account holders will be able to make and receive phone calls to landlines via their browsers using no hardware except their computer’s microphone and speakers, and if they’ve got a web cam they’ll be able to video chat as well.
In the past, Gmail required both users to be at their computers and logged into Gmail before a call could take place; however the new technology means that users can now call landlines as easily as making a traditional call, all from within the Gmail browser window. Simply click ‘Call phone’ in the chat box in Gmail to receive a software install prompt.
Once the software is installed, calls are made just as you would on a regular phone. You can call any number just by clicking the keypad, or by cutting and pasting a number into the call box. Alternatively users can simply use their contacts list, the same way as they would for chatting, to launch a video chat session or phone call.
Google Voice will also include such services as voicemail transcription, SMS-to-email, custom greetings and call screening. Users will be able to redirect calls to any number they’ve registered, or to simply chat within their browser.
Unfortunately, the system is not available in New Zealand just yet, but Google is expected to roll the system out quickly elsewhere.
For more information, visit the official Gmail blog here.