New service integrates Google Wallet with Gmail but isn't widely available yet.
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In an effort to boost the popularity of Google Wallet and free it from dependence on Android phones, Google is trying to make online commerce social and viral.
On Wednesday at its developers' conference Google I/O, the company announced it has integrated Wallet with Gmail to allow people to send money with their messages.
Google is hoping its payment-via-email service will catch on in the viral sense: "The only way you get the feature is if someone sends you money," explained Peter Hazelhurst, director of product management for Google Wallet, in a video interview.
In this metaphor for infection, the ability to transfer money via email plays the role of a disease, spread through the medium of Gmail. The concept is a bit of a stretch -- real viruses have infection rates of less than 100% and no funds transfer service would fly if only a portion of the money got through -- but it does convey what Google is doing. The company is redefining its popular email service so that it's no longer simply a way to send asynchronous messages. It is turning Gmail into an interface for other Google services, something already seen in the Google+ integration with Gmail.
Google is supporting four of these schemas and one interactive card: an RSVP Action, for responding to events; a Review Action, for submitting reviews of products, services and activities; a One-click Action, a general trigger for actions that can be performed with a click; a Go-to Action for taking users to a website; and Flight interactive cards, for a Google Now-style presentation of flight information in Gmail.
According to Google Wallet product manager Travis Green, sending money via Gmail is free if your Wallet is linked to your bank account; otherwise there's a fee of 2.9% per transaction (minimum $0.30) when the funds are drawn from a linked credit card.
Sending money couldn't be much easier -- if you have Google Wallet and have already received an emailed payment. Just click on the $ icon, between the Drive and Photos icons on the attachment options ribbon at the bottom of the Gmail Compose window.
If you haven't received money via Gmail from someone with early access to the service, you will probably have to wait several months before Google makes the service more widely available.