Phone Calls From Gmail


Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase

NEW YORK: Google Inc said users of Gmail will now be able to call telephones directly from their email, putting it in direct competition with Web calling service Skype and more traditional operators such as AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications.

While Google had already offered computer-to-computer voice and video chat services, it said that starting on Wednesday it will now allow calls to home phones and mobile phones directly from Gmail for the first time.

Google promised free calls to U.S. and Canadian phones from Gmail for the rest of this year and said it would charge low rates for calls made to other countries.

For example it said calls to Britain, France, Germany, China and Japan would be as low as 2 cents per minute.

Analysts said the service would likely be a bigger competitive threat to services like Skype’s than to traditional phone companies, which have already been cutting their call prices in recent years in response to stiff competition.

“This is a risk to Skype. It’s a competitor with a pretty good brand name,” said Hudson Square analyst Todd Rethemeier.

Skype, which owned by private equity firms and eBay Inc and planning a $100 million initial public offering, has long allowed consumers to make calls from computers to phones. Skype became popular by first offering free computer-to-computer voice and video services.

Like Skype, Rethemeier said the Google service will likely be much more popular among U.S. consumers making international calls, than among people calling friends inside the country.

“Calling is so cheap already that I don’t think it will attract a huge amount of domestic calling. It could take some of the international market,” he said.

Another analyst, Steve Clement from Pacific Crest, said that anybody who is tempted by Internet calling services has likely already disconnected their home phone.

“The type of person who would use a service like that isn’t the type of customer who still has a landline,” Clement said.

Google said making a call through its service works like a normal phone in that a user could click on the “call phone” option in their chat buddy list in Gmail and type in the number or enter a contact’s name.

Calls that cost money will be charged from an online account that users can top up with a credit card, Google said. The service will not be available for making outgoing calls on cell phones because other Google apps already cater to that market, the company added.

Google shares closed up $3.23, or 0.72 percent, at $454.62 on the Nasdaq, while the shares of eBay rose 29 cents, or 1.27 percent, to $23.16, also on the Nasdaq.

New Gmail Design Leaked


A version of Gmail used by Google employees has been revealed in a screenshot included with a Chromium OS bug report, and the image reveals more than a half dozen changes to the Gmail most of us are using today.

Savvy Gmail users immediately picked apart the screenshot looking for new features and interesting changes. Most notably, Mail, Contacts and Tasks have all been featured in the top left as the three pillars of the user experience. Right below those, you can see that “Compose Mail” is now an actual button, not just a text link. That’s simply an aesthetic change, but it’s an interesting choice regardless.

Following that theme, there are no longer text links to actions such as “Select All” or “Select None” — those appear to now exist under a textless drop-down box above the Inbox. Drop-down boxes are ubiquitous in general, actually. Note that the e-mail address at the top menu is accompanied by a drop-down box — could that be the Gmail account switcher that Google promised?

Look in the chat window and you’ll see a new “Call Phone” button. That might be Google Voice  integration. You’ll also see two little buttons in the top-right corner of the Google Talk window; one of those could be a rejiggered settings menu, but it’s hard to tell for sure.