Google Talk to debut on Wednesday?

The Internet giant may be about to follow version two of its desktop tool with an instant-messaging and Internet telephony service

Google could be about to release an IM client, according to the latest round of industry rumours.

A report in the LA Times,  quoting a source close to the services, said Google could launch IM as early as this Wednesday. The paper added the service has been in testing phase for around a month.

Rumours of Google IM first surfaced late last year when an examination of Google's earlier desktop search programme revealed a protocol named 'google_im://'. Google also acquired an IM client when it bought Picasa last July.

The news of an IM client follows on the heels of the release of the latest version of Google's desktop search, which debuted yesterday.

The IM service will launch under the brand name Google Talk, according to the LA Times. Google's choice of name has also prompted speculation that the search engine will be branching out into VoIP.

Such a move would come as no surprise. Google execs have already been in talks with VoIP providers.

And several of Google's competitors, including AOL, MSN and Yahoo, have already made their entrance into the VoIP arena, though all rank behind Skype in terms of number of minutes and calls made.

According to the LA Times,  one user of the Google Talk service has confirmed that VoIP functionality will be included.

A Google spokeswoman did not confirm or deny the imminent launch of any new IM or VoIP service from the search engine. "We don't have anything to announce," she said.