Google's VOIP Challenge to Skype: 10 Reasons It's a Serious Threat

News Analysis: Gmail now has a VOIP phone-calling option that could pose a serious challenge to Skype's Internet phone service - at least in the United States and Canada.

Google unveiled a new VOIP service on Wednesday that integrates directly into Gmail. The feature is quite simple and allows users to place free calls to phones in the United States and Canada. For now, few folks have been able to fully test out the service, so there's no telling if there are any bugs that could cause some users to switch to an alternative. But at first glance, with some basic use, placing calls in Gmail provides a robust experience.

Going forward, Gmail's new phone service is undoubtedly taking aim at Skype, the leader in the VOIP market. And although some might say that Gmail won't be able to match Skype just yet, some see it a different way. Phone calling on Gmail might not be perfect right now, but it effectively puts Skype on notice that Google is ready to steal market share. Take a look at the ways Gmail's VOIP service poses a huge challenge to Skype's Internet phone service.

1. It's readily available

One of the issues facing Skype now that Gmail has VOIP is that it's no longer the only readily available solution on the market. Every Gmail user now has the ability to place calls by clicking one option and dialing. They don't need to open a special program or wait for a service to load after downloading the plug-in. They need only to click the phone option and call someone. That convenience could hurt Skype.

2. It's coming to more places

Google Voice is quickly making its way to more and more platforms. Having it available on the Google Voice page and on Gmail is one thing, but now that users can place calls on the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android-based devices, it doesn't bode well for Skype. Admittedly, the VOIP company does have several mobile options available to customers as well, but Google has far more clout among users. And the more places its service is available, the worse it is for Skype.

3. Google Voice offers more options

Google Voice delivers far more options to users than Skype. At first glance, it might just be a service that allows folks to place calls, but it can also provide voicemail-transcription service, free text messages and the ability to work on several phones with a single number. Gmail phone integration isn't that advanced, but if it gets users thinking about Google Voice, the search giant will already find itself in the lead.

4. Free calling in key areas

One issue with the phone-calling service in Gmail is that it doesn't provide all the international-calling options that Skype boasts. But the vast majority of users will likely only want to place calls around the United States and Canada anyway. It might not be ideal, but right now, Google is delivering a viable experience with its U.S. and Canada support for the vast majority of its customers. Those who want to chat overseas will move to Skype.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...