Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Google Instant Message Service Inside Gmail

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc. users will be able to conduct instant message chats from a Google Web browser window, alongside their e-mails, instead of requiring a separate application, the company said late Monday.

Google hopes that by embedding new instant messaging software it calls "Gmail Chat" into its existing e-mail service, it can differentiate itself in a crowded market it was late to join.

Google is fixing a decade-old technical divide between the generic Web browser that can check e-mail, search the Web or perform a host of other activities, and separate software used to converse in quick back-and-forth messages with buddies.

"We are breaking down some of the artificial barriers between e-mail and Web browsing," Salar Kamangar, Google's vice president of product management, said in a phone interview. "We observed by talking with our users that there is no reason to think of IM as different from an e-mail message."

Gmail Chat requires no special software download. It is available to any registered user of Gmail e-mail. Existing contacts within the more advanced Google Talk program automatically show up in Google Chat, the company said.

Gmail Chat features include a Quick Contacts list on the left side of a Google e-mail page that automatically displays the people the user communicates with most frequently, not just via Chat but also via Gmail e-mail or Google Talk services.

Gmail users will start receiving offers to join the Gmail Chat service over the coming weeks, although some members received invitations as early as Tuesday.

In effect, Google is easing the frustrations of millions of instant messaging users of having to install special software on each computer to hold instant chats.
While this presents little difficulty for computers users sitting at a PC they control, many office workers are usually restricted from downloading the special IM software required for their work machines.

See an info page and screenshot here.

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