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Google Rolling Out Gmail Phone Calling; Skype Not Psyched

Google announced this morning that pretty soon, if it still hasn’t been rolled out to you (I’m still waiting), you’ll be able, in addition to already being able to initiate VoIP calls and video chats, to call actual phones from within Gmail’s interface. In the biz we call that sort of thing badass, and badass is the sort of thing in the biz that we’re getting in constant and heavy doses from Google.

US-based Gmail users are getting this for now, for now being defined as over the next few days, and a little longer for Google Apps users as Google tries to make this more IT-department friendly.

Calls to US and Canada will be free at least until the end of the year and international calls are impressively cheap (here’s a comparison to the “leading internet telephony provider”).

They’re even undercutting Skype with 15c/min calls to France versus Skype’s 20.3c. Even with their 60min bundle Google is still cheaper for the Francophiles. Not to mention they charge for domestic calls, whereas Google isn’t, they’ve committed not to at least through the year they may go on with that indefinitely if, for example, international revenue is solid. Especially if word shows up that there will be mobile clients for this service, meaning VoIP over at least wifi but preferably cellular data too, goodnight Skype, whom by the way no major news outlet I’ve found has been able to reach on the phone for comment. Irony?

Here’s how it works: On the Chat list, the thing with your buddies, toward the top right under your name and status you’ll soon see, if you aren’t seeing it already, a Call phone link which when you click will bring up a phone pad thing like this:

You can either dial a number or enter in a contact and it will figure out that person’s number. Initiate the call, they pick up from their phone and you chit chat from your computer’s mic and speakers (or maybe one of those Skype USB phones if you’ve got one). And if you have Google Voice, and I don’t know what your problem is if you haven’t signed up for that already, your Google Voice number shows up as the outbound caller ID, and also tell Gmail to set that number as the number you want to have ringed when people attempt to call you from their Gmail thing or receive inbound calls right on Gmail. Not too shabby, Google.

Still no word on official full Google Voice VoIP on Android… sigh.

Doug Simmons