Google continues its forward march into unified communications by adding then ability to call telephones from within Gmail. Officially, the service is only available to US residents but us Australians can enable it by:
- Browsing to the general settings in Gmail,
- Changing the “Gmail display language” to “English (UK)”,
- Saving the changes,
- Changing the “Gmail display language” back to “English (US),
- Saving the changes again,
- Return back to your mailbox.
Once completed, you should see a “call phone” link in the chat pane where your Google Talk contacts show up. Clicking that link will bring up a keypad in the bottom right of the browser window. Dialling is a fairly simple affair, just choose the country you want to dial from the list and then type in the number and you’re set. Google even gives you a bit of credit to test out the service (albeit ten cents which would get you a five minute conversation to someone in the USA).
With respect to the Australian telecommunications market, I can see potentially having an impact on international calls from landlines and mobiles but the tech savvy amongst us would already be using services like Skype to solve their communication requirements for a lower price (i.e. free). I can see this having more of an effect in the USA where Google Voice is fully released and is commonly used by people to save money on their voice calls.
At this stage, I think it’s a nice addition to Gmail but I’m not feeling any great urgency to make any considerable use of it. That said, I’d like to see the full Google Voice platform make an appearance down under as I believe that could be a significant game changer for the telecommunications industry.