November 11, 2008 |
It has looked for quite a while now that Google actually wants to be everywhere whenever we do just about anything online. Today we have yet another functionality introduced by Google to Gmail to make the Gmail experience even more all-inclusive: voice and video chat for Google Talk. Quite logical, of course, because “talk” should not really mean “type” probably so adding actual voice and even video to the IM only sounds like a good idea.
The feature has started rolling out today and is supposed to take until the end of the day for everyone to get this working. Once the rollout is complete, the functionality will be available right in the web-based Gmail interface. But to start using it you will need to download a special plugin first. From the very beginning both PC and Mac versions are available. In addition to needing a web camera and a microphone for a video chat or at least the mic for the voice only, the user will also need to use a browser that supports the current version of Gmail application (not older than Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7).
It is possible to initiate a voice or video chat right in the chat window when you are already talking to someone or you can start the video right from the contacts list with any video-enabled user. But don’t expect to see many friends with video chat enabled just yet as it is too new with only a small portion of users aware of its existence probably. Also a feature to invite friends to download the plugin required to use voice and video chat is promised but have not worked to me when I attempted to invite some friends.
There are established players in the voice and video communications market (desktop Skype and web-based Meebo are probably the best known examples). And quite understandably for now we should expect better functionality in dedicated services than what you would get in Gmail (especially when comparing to desktop applications like Skype where quality of connection will probably be much better due to a different architecture). But Google usually tries to provide the services that can be described as best in class always, no matter what it tries to do so I think we should expect the functionality to be further enhanced and improved by Google. But as a one-stop solution where you can have a quick video chat and then quickly switch back to email this will probably be more than enough. And if Google continues adding various communications and productivity tools right to Gmail (for example, this particular feature is based on e-meeting solution by Sweden-based Marratech acquired by Google last year so Google could continue adding further features bringing Gmail closer to a web conferencing solution), it has pretty good chances of becoming a one-stop solution for all productivity and communications tools needed.