A couple of days ago Google released a video chat plugin for Gmail. With Google, it's always a little hard to figure out where all of the pieces fit - that's why there are entire blogs dedicated to the company - but in this case, I think this seemingly innocuous Gmail feature hints at something bigger.
As I mentioned on RIA Weekly, I think there are a couple of core components to RIAs. One is a much improved graphical user interface and layout mechanism. This is part of the appeal behind technologies like Flex and XAML - they've got a robust set of components and it's very easy to get pixel perfect layout. They also support vector graphics, another benefit of that increased rendering capability. The other is video and multimedia. Canvas kind of enables the first case on the HTML side, something Google could get behind. But video is tougher. Now Google has that piece. And as Dion notes, it's not like they don't have a way to deploy this in a wider, developer-friendly way.
The technology behind it seems a little ambiguous. They're supposedly using some technology from Vidyo and they rely on the Flash Player for something whether that's some behind-the-scenes communication or webcam support, I have no idea. But I've also heard rumblings that parts of this could be contributed back to the open source community. That would make it an interesting play for the HTML5 video tag.
So this is a big deal and it's something to keep an eye on. Google has never been associated with the "rich" in rich Internet application, but that could start to change.