Phone Calls Come to Gmail

Here's a present for all you tech fiends. Google Inc. announced today that Gmail users will be able to make free phone calls to the U.S. and Canada from its email service. The company has merged its Google Voice call forwarding service with its Gchat feature, letting users place phone calls through the Web browser by using the computer's built-in microphone. The service, which will roll out to U.S. users over the next few days, features a phone icon that's now available at the top of users' chat lists. Users just click "Call phone," and a keypad pops up to place your call. "Gmail is a great way to handle all your online communications and Google Voice is a great way to handle all your phone communications," said Craig Walker, product manager for real time communications at Google. "We thought, wouldn't it be great if we could bring all these things together." Calls placed to the U.S. and Canada will be free until at least the end of the year, and calls to other countries are offered at a discounted rate, with calls to the U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan-and many more countries-available for as little as $0.02 per minute.