In what is probably a clear challenge to VOIP services such as Skype, Google has now introduced video and voice functionality to their Google Talk gadget inside Gmail.
However, some of you will NOT see it yet as Gmail is doing their usual and rolling it out slowly to users. So some of you will have it and some of you won’t. So if you don’t have it yet, don’t despair. You will see it eventually!
This new feature is a really big deal because along with also being able to put Google gadgets in the Gmail sidebar, this means that your Gmail inbox is no longer just for email. Your Gmail inbox is now the center of your entire working life. I hesitate to use the phrase “nerve center” as it is over-used and a bit of a cliche but that is basically what it has now become. Everything you need to work with is now sitting on your Gmail page :
- Your email
- The Google Calendar gadget (enabled from the Gmail Labs section)
- The Google Docs gadget (enabled from the Gmail Labs section)
- Any other gadgets you may have installed.
- Remember The Milk “to do list” gadget or the Firefox extension.
- And now….video and voice chat!
You need to install a small plug-in which Google provides but right there, you see the first drawback. If you are working on different computers, you need to have the plugin installed on ALL of the computers for the video and voice chat to work. So if you are say in an internet cafe or on a computer where you don’t have the administrator rights then you won’t be able to use the video and voice features. Any feature that requires something installed is always going to have limited appeal and limited use.
You are also obviously going to need a webcam. Google “helpfully” gives you some suggestions (obviously they’ll get their commission if you follow their ideas!)
Once you have the plug-in installed and you’ve plugged in the webcam, go to your Gmail settings, then the “chat” tab. You’ll now see a new section:
Make sure that the settings are correct and that your webcam is showing up.
If you now look at your GTalk inside Gmail, you’ll now see yourself with a little camera icon next to your name:
If anyone sees that camera icon, they’ll know that you are able to speak to them via webcam inside Gmail’s GTalk and if you see cameras next to their name, you’ll know they can do the same.
Finally, here is Gmail’s official little YouTube video on the subject :