Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

Summary: Google today is integrating Google Voice into the Gmail interface, adding yet another feature that turns the e-mail interface into a broader communications platform.

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Google today is integrating Google Voice into the Gmail interface, adding yet another feature that turns the e-mail interface into a broader communications platform and, at the same time, goes after the Skype market for Web-based phone calls.

The integration will happen automatically today for consumer Gmail users in the U.S. Google Voice, which is now open to users without an invitation, will not yet integrate with Gmail accounts that are part of the Google Apps offerings for businesses.

That's unfortunate because a Web-based softphone feature for businesses would be a pretty strong differentiator between what others are offering in their online office productivity suites.

Also: Google's Gmail calling: Another enterprise app goodie aimed at Skype

During a press event in Google's San Francisco office this morning, company executives were vague about the timeline for integrating Voice into the Apps version or the rollout of the service to other countries - though they said they are working on it.

In a demo, the company showed how the features that Google Voice users have come to expect from the web interface - things like screening calls, forwarding calls to another number during mid-conversation and integrating the dialer with the Google Contacts list - are also present in the smaller Gmail user interface.

The service is free and calls to the phones in the U.S. and Canada are free, at least through the end of the year. The company said it has no plans to start charging for calls to the U.S. and Canada but was clear that some of that is dependent on making some money on international calls.

In terms of international calling, calls to landline phones in many countries are a flat 2 cents per minute with no connection fee. Calls to mobile phones vary, depending on the country - but the company says the rates are competitive.

Gmail users without a Google Voice number can use the device for outbound calls - but the recipients of those calls will see a generic number on their Caller ID unit that won't work for a callback. Google, of course, is encouraging Gmail users to obtain their own.

Also: Google Voice: Will the masses adopt it?

Google Voice has come a long way since the company acquired and turned the Grand Central service into a Google one. But the company has taken its time on rolling out some features, much to the dismay of some users - myself included.

Two thing that Google Voice still cannot do:

  • Number portability - the ability to convert a cell or landline number to a Google Voice account - remains just a dream. Google says they're working on it but it's a very complicated issue and the company doesn't want to introduce something that will make users jump through nightmare hurdles.
  • Picture messaging: Google Voice numbers are sort of hybrid voice/mobile, which means they act like landline numbers but can be used to send and receive SMS text mesages. What they can't do is send or receive picture or video MMS messages.

With that said, I have been a big fan and loyal user of Google Voice for some time now and think that, with hundreds of millions of active Gmail users now being exposed to it, the service has the potential to revolutionize voice dialing for consumers and, eventually, businesses, too.

But it needs more exposure - and Google has come up with a pretty creative way of promoting it. The company will soon be placing big red phone booths - yes, an actual phone booth - into airports and on university campuses across the U.S. The booths, equipped with Google Voice technology, would give users a chance to try the service.

The service will begin rolling out today. Gmal users will find a "Place Call" link in their chat windows - but may need to install a browser plug-in first.

Separately, Google was asked for an update on the rejection of a Google Voice iPhone app by Apple, a move that resulted in an FCC inquiry just over a year ago. The company said, in a very vague way, that letters were filed to the FCC by some but that the matter hasn't progressed or otherwise moved forward. For now, iPhone users can access Google Voice via an advanced browser app using HTML5 - but it doesn't have the integration that Android mobile users have.

As always, Google has put together a fun video to explain how it all works.

Topics: Telcos, Browser, Cloud, Collaboration, Google, Mobility

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12 comments
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  • Ive dumped gmail The cost of free is just too high

    Ive dumped gmail The cost of free is just too high for me. My privacy and ability to have control of what features i want or need is much greater then having google sift through my email for advertising purposes or adding me to a social network i didn't want to be a member of in the first place are my reasons.
    And zealots before ya go off on a tangent please note i said MY REASONS.
    Stan57
    • RE: Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

      @Stan57
      You're an idiot.
      Droid101
      • lol.... A Fabulous Observation!

        @Droid101 This is Awesome and I'm using it right now to keep in contact with my son in London. Who was refused a Visa to travel to India. I was using Skype and it's great too. Now I share video calls from him in the UK on his UK PAYG phone. He bought it and it has Skype built in.<br>it's awesome cuz I can keep him out of trouble while stuck in London for free. NOW it's double goodness. With Google Phone and email chat that's unbeatable in a stand alone phone along with having a multitasking phone that can run msn messenger, Skype and Google Voice all at one time inside of email. Now I feel like he's right here!!!! .....Google voice is the bomb and Gmail is the absolute best email solution out there!<br><br>Top that all off with Google's mobile search engine (and Google Maps) that has offer 99% of the mobile market and you're in heaven!!!<br><br>yes...... Google loves me...... because I know how to use it for my benefit to the max. If they gain a little money off that use, I don't mind. NO other company in the World gives you a free telephone number, answering machine, mail and video/voice mail in one package for free. <br><br>There is NO spam and this idiot Stan57 has a hole in his head if he thinks he can convert people that have already experienced Google Goodness!!!
        i2fun@...
    • Well ads are the price of free to the User...

      @Stan57... no matter which service you select, Hotmail, Excite, or Gmail. That is just a fact of life. If you don't want those things then your only options are to either Host your own, or subscribe to a hosted solution that charges money. Companies can't maintain servers for free...
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • RE: Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

      @Stan57 that's very nice, Stan57. Thank you so much for sharing. We all really really appreciate knowing that you don't like Google. Most of the rest of us do. No prob.
      TunerGeek
  • RE: Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

    good to hear...but how is it useful and different ? :) I checked the international calling rates, they are 5-8 times more than the rate offered by standard companies...yawn
    animageofmine1
    • RE: Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

      @animageofmine1
      Yes but when you are vacationing in europe and you want to call your family in the U.S. you just need to find a web connection and make the call via gmail for free.

      Handy for me since my phone won't work internationally. Its at least an option regardless of how much use I can get out of it.
      rengek
  • And what about outside US

    G Voice and related services still only available in the US? At least it is not available in Asia. If Skype can offer the service globally why cannot Google?
    Nihon8888
  • RE: Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

    just tried it. Though i am located in Ecuador, service was enabled and i placed a phone call to Canada, with the best quality i ever got on an online call.
    Vahidm
  • RE: Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

    I'm just imagining ....
    Google captures the phone calls, saving them to an mp3 file. Voice to text software translates the audio into text and archives it in Google's vast repository, capable of future searches

    ... just saying.
    ShortyStuff
    • RE: Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

      @ShortyStuff Are you serious? Have you ever used Google Voice automated transcription? It's a JOKE! I mean, literally. It had me actually chuckling at how bizarre the results came back. It's like something out of a spam email. Just saying.
      PacoBell
  • RE: Google Voice is added to Gmail; Boosts exposure but still falls short in other areas

    Don't mix me up. I have a cell phone for voice and email for texting. I don't need text on my phone and I don't need voice on my email. Video neither.
    Aboleyn