Yesterday, Google added yet another feature to the Gmail arsenal. The VoIP addition is different from the voice and video chat already available within Gmail's chat feature in that it isn't limited to chat users. Gmailers can now call any type of phone directly from their browser.
This snapshot from Google's official announcement of the feature is pretty self-explanatory:
If you don't see the "Call phone" option at the top of your chat list just yet, have patience. As per usual, the feature will hit Gmail users in waves over the next week. Once it's available, you'll be able to call U.S. and Canada numbers for free (at least until the end of the year), while calls to other countries can be made at fairly low rates.
If you have a Google Voice phone number (it's free!), the calls you make from Gmail will display this number as the outbound caller ID. Further, users can receive calls made to this number right inside Gmail as well.
UCC is Coming Together
Both the business and mobile version of Google Voice are still in the pipeline, but once they hit the mainstream we imagine that popular services like Skype will have some major competition to consider.
That sentiment has been galvanized by experts several times this year, including business research and consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan. Their research report titled, "Google's Enterprise Universe: Google Storms the Unified Communications and Collaboration Market," projects that Google will be the next UCC competitor to watch out for. Acquisitions such as video conferencing vendor Marratech, VoIP vendor GrandCentral and, most recently, Gizmo5, have also contributed to stirring the pot.
"Although Google has not officially announced this strategy, it is evident that, by continually adding new UCC applications to its portfolio and focusing on integrating them, the company is effectively entering the UCC market," said Dorota Oviedo of Frost & Sullivan.
The enterprise version of Google Voice is expected to arrive in late 2010. Keep watch with us here.