We’re here at Google’s San Francisco office, and Google’s Gmail and Google Voice and communications product managers are up on stage officially announcing what we reported as a rumor last night – Google Voice right in Gmail – and Google is calling the feature “Call phones in Gmail”.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you could put these things together? This is a big deal for a number of reasons,” said Craig Walker.
The outbound calls are not actually Google Voice – it works more like Skype but basically uses the Google Voice price structure (and is most likely the same). Calls to US and Canada are free (at least for the rest of the year) with pretty reasonable international rates, and it is rolled out only in the US. To start, you can buy credits in $10 chunks, but after using the service for awhile, users are also offered $25 and $50 purchasing options.
The official Google blog has the behind the scenes story, as well as a video:
It only works on desktop browsers at present, and “it only makes sense” to eventually roll out to Google Apps Gmail accounts, according to Google. For users that don’t have a Google Voice number/account, people that receive calls will see a generic number.
The integration is right in Gmail and pops up like GChat, and is predictably integrated with contacts. The costs are the same as Google Voice mobile, and Gmail users can just click through a number to make a call. We asked Google if they would comment on Google Me, but they predictably declined comment: however they did say that there is no integration with Google Profiles.
You can switch between calls within Gmail and receive calls if you have Google Voice number by simply checking a new box on Google Voice that lets you answer a phone call in GChat along with you cell phone. Google is having a bit of an internal issue with what to call this (GTalk, GChat, Google Voice) but would like to move it all towards GChat. Google said that the backend uses Gizmo5 but Google isn’t talking about future dedicated downloadable clients. Google is not giving a timeline on porting numbers right now. Google also said that nothing much is happening with the Google Voice iOS app.
For international calls, users will be able to buy credits for international calls and are basically good forever as long as you use the function at least once a year. Google says that its revenue will come from international call rates (with a small margin) as well as paid features, but will not monetize with ads (in either Google Voice or the GChat interface) at least for now.
That phone booth here on the post? Google is actually going to put those around the country at universities and airports for people to try out the call quality – for free. You can check out more at www.gmail.com/call and here’s a couple of more shots from press conference: