When Google launched its Gmail calling service Aug. 25, the top question was how the VOIP service would impact Skype.
Gmail calling threatens Skype because it copies its service for initiating and receiving free or cheap calls over IP. However, Gmail and Skype offer trade-offs, and analysts and industry experts have different takes on how these services match up.
More than 560 million Skype users worldwide make voice and video calls from computers to computers, or from computers to other phones.
Like Skype, Google's new service lets users make free calls to the United States and Canada by downloading a voice and video chat plug-in. International calls through Gmail start at 2 cents a minute. The New York Times detailed how it works here.
Gmail users quickly took to the service, ringing more than 1 million calls through Gmail in the first 24 hours. Some thinks the service is immediately a challenger to Skype.
Siva Sanmuga, who as vice president of retail services for Callture helps sell telecom services such as VOIP to clients, said he uses both Gmail calling and Skype.
"Both are going after the tech-savvy clients, so it will definitely affect Skype," Sanmuga told eWEEK. "Most of Skype revenue comes from Skypeout, and Google offering it for free will have an effect."
IDC analyst Irene Berlinsky noted that Google's Gmail calling service leapfrogs Skype by offering free calls to U.S. mobile phones and landlines. Skype currently charges for any calls not made to or from a computer.
However, unlike Skype, Google's phone service does not work from mobile phones, which means users must use their computer to place a call through Gmail.