Gmail could be the next frontier of VoIP communications, as Google is testing the ability to place calls from within its online email service.
According to a report from CNet, Google is testing a Web-based service that would allow Gmail users to make phones calls directly from within Gmail.
CNet says that some users have noticed a new window in the lower-left corner of the browser-based version of Gmail that powers phone calls. The tool, which is launched from the Google Chat window, works with existing Google contacts and uses an interface that looks similar to that of Google's online version of Google Voice.
Google hasn't officially announced any new products or services, though it has planned a press conference for Wednesday in San Francisco.
Marrying some functions of Google Voice with Gmail seems like a logical and obvious step for Google. As CNet notes, Google acquired a company called Gizmo5 last year, which made a Web-based VoIP client. This product could be introducing some elements from Gizmo5. Google Talk, Google's Web-based instant messaging and video chatting service, uses some elements of VoIP.
Google Voice is a phone call forwarding service that allows users to provide one number that will ring multiple other lines. Both Google Voice and Gmail let users send SMS messages, but Voice does not offer VoIP services right now.
It's not clear how the two will be integrated, and how it will relate to Google's mobile version of Voice. According to a screen shot that CNet published, many of the user interface elements and controls of the unnamed, unannounced VoIP product are similar those used by Google Voice.
I'd really like to see Android involved in a Gmail-based VoIP client. Adding a native Android video chat / calling service would be even better.
Perhaps we'll learn more about this during Google's press conference.
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