Google announced a new feature for their online chat service Wednesday morning - not only can Gmail users make voice calls between personal computers, they can now make calls to regular phone lines. Calls made to US and Canada nu
mbers are free, and per minute rates apply to other countries. These rates range from two to nineteen cents per minute, depending on country or line type.
The outdialing service integrates with Google Voice, and those using the service will display their GV number when making calls. Talk and Voice already are closely integrated with Android phones and Wired's Ryan Singer predicts there will also be a Chrome extension. The same article reports on this service, previously available for users of Google-acquisition Gizmo5, a former Skype competitor.
Singer opines that because dialing out will encourage even more time spent on Gmail and Talk, the service aims to compete not with Skype, but with Facebook. The workflow keeps Google Account holders within the network of its services for longer periods of time, which is how Facebook uses its features to keep users on its site.
Many responses, including CNET's, have questioned how this new development will affect Skype. The release of this feature is predicted to result in a burst of Google Voice sign-ups, and Skype does charge for domestic calls, and nearly all of per minute charges exceed Google's rates on their comparison chart.
The convenience of Google's new functionality primes it to not only to be used often by millions of Gmail account holders, it will spur growth in connected services - Voice and Talk, as well as future updates for Chrome and Android. Another CNET post reports that Google plans to promote this new development by installing phone booths in select US airports and universities where people can make phone calls for free.