Google Inc. is adding a free e-mail feature that may persuade more people to cut the cords on their landline phones.
The service unveiled Wednesday enables U.S. users of Google`s Gmail service to make calls from microphone-equipped computers to telephones virtually anywhere in the world.
Phoning anywhere in the US and Canada will be free until the end of the year, while calls to the UK, France, China and Germany will cost 2 cents a minute.
Until now Google offered computer-to-computer voice and video chat services.
"This is a real big deal because now hundreds of millions of Gmail users can make phone calls right from their Gmail page," Craig Walker, product manager for real-time communications told BBC News.
The product link will appear on the left hand of the Gmail page within the "chat" window. A "call phone" option will pop up along with a number pad to let you dial the number of the person you want to talk to.
Google said money raised from international calls will pay for the free US and Canadian calls.
Skype, which is the most successful internet phone offering, claims to have over 560 million registered users. The firm said 124 million used the service at least one a month while 8.1 million were paying customers.
BDST: 1955 HRS, 26 August 2010