Google Turns Gmail Into a Phone

We know that Google is constantly experimenting with new ideas, and rolling them out as they come to fruition. Thus, on Wednesday, we saw another feature come to Gmail, which Google seems to be focusing on as a communications center. While you have been able voice chat to other Gmail users through Gtalk for some time, how about this: voice calls from Gmail?

It would seem to be a natural extension of the voice chat functionality, and Google Voice as well. While you can use Google Voice to make a call, it doesn't use VOIP to do so: it calls your phone and then calls the recipient as well.

Obviously this sort of functionality has a high-profile target, Skype (or maybe two, Fring). Launched from the chat section of Gmail, it shares a lot in common with the Google Voice UI.

Google says that calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free "at least through the end of the year," with other calls billed at their "very low rates." If you have a Google Voice phone number, calls made from Gmail will display that number as the outbound caller ID. You can even receive calls to that number inside Gmail.

Typical of Google service updates, this will roll out gradually. When you get the feature, you'll see "Call Phone" in the chat section of Gmail. You will need to install the voice and video plug-in if you haven’t already.  Let us know what you think about it, once you get it in your Gmail.

Still confused?  Check out this Google demo video: