Google launches a new service today that may strike fear into the hearts of Voice over IP (VoIP) services everywhere. The company is integrating Google Voice with Gmail, which means users can now make calls to any phone number in the United States and Canada from their computers ... for the grand total of nothing. That's right: free phone calls from Gmail.
If you call a number outside of those countries, Google will charge as little as two cents a minute. But hey, now you don't even have to leave your e-mail screen to call your buddies vacationing in Europe.
But wait, there's more! Ever wonder what happened to phone booths? Apparently somebody at Google felt nostalgic -- or they were a big Bill and Ted fan -- so the company also announced red Google Voice phone booths will be installed at airports and universities. The phone booths will allow people to try out Google Voice and pretend to be Superman at the same time.
To get started with Google's new toy, you have to first install the plug-in. PC World covers more details on the service, although it also reports Gmail calling isn't quite ready for business customers using Google Apps. Engadget delivers its first impressions of the call feature in action. The blog GilsMethod wonders if Google Voice just killed Skype, the current leader in VoIP technology. Check out a video of Search Engine Land trying out the phone booth: