It appears that rumors from back in June suggesting Gmail would be integrating the Google Voice service into its chat features might be getting closer to reality. CNET has some screenshots and more information about what may be the marrying of Google Talk, Google Voice, and Gmail.
UPDATE: Well, that was quick. Looks like it’s up and running already. Check your Gmail account to see if it’s been activated for you yet. You’ll be able to make free outgoing calls to any domestic number and low-cost international calls. There will also be a setting in your Google Voice account to allow incoming calls to your Google Voice number to “ring” inside Gmail.
Currently, Google Talk is the company’s instant messaging offering that allows users to chat via text messages or initiate computer-to-computer voice and video calls. Google Voice, on the other hand, is a universal phone number and voicemail system that allows users to give out one phone number that can be forwarded to any other phone number and integrates quite nicely with Android-based cell phones.
So let’s say there’s a guy like me (who is me!) that tests out a lot of Android phones for work. Each time I get a new one to test, I don’t have to tell all my contacts to call the random number that Verizon or Sprint or AT&T or T-Mobile has assigned to the loaner handset I’m using. I just give out my Google Voice number to everyone and they can get ahold of me no matter which phone or phones I’m using. I can also initiate calls to people from directly inside my web browser. Google Voice calls whatever phone I tell it to, and when I answer, it calls the other person and connects us.
What Google appears to be doing is adding Google Voice features to the Google Talk chat box that’s already available from inside Gmail. Instead of just being able to initiate a text or video-based chat with one of your contacts, you’d be able to call them using your Google Voice number. You’d also (theoretically) be able to receive incoming calls using a headset and microphone kit connected to your computer. It’d be handy if you didn’t want to use your cell phone minutes or you forgot your phone at home.
No word on if and when we’ll actually see all this stuff implemented. It looks like Google is actually testing it out, though. A few things that add credence to this rumor: Google bought VoIP company Gizmo5 late last year, opened Google Voice from an invite-only system to a publicly available one in June of this year, and demoed a desktop VoIP application in July to show off its acquisition of Gizmo5.
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