Less than 24 hours after turning on a feature that lets users receive and reply to text messages by e-mail, Google added an option in Gmail Labs that lets Google Voice users access their messages directly from Gmail instead of in a separate browser tab.
Currently, Google Voice users get alerts about voice mails via e-mail, which shows who called and includes an automated transcript of the voice mail with a link to play back the message.
When users click the link, it opens a new browser tab for users to listen to their messages. But with the new Gmail Labs feature, users can check their voice mails right within Gmail.
As with any Gmail Labs feature, users can turn on the Google Voice player from the Gmail Labs tab under Settings. Just click enable and then save changes:
Thereafter, when you get a voice mail notification from Google Voice, the player will appear right below the message. See the video demo here:
Google Voice Product Manager Vincent Paquet also said voice mail messages will be synchronized, so when they are played from Gmail they will appear as read in your Google Voice in-box.
This is key because it means they won't be played again when you check new messages via your phone, meaning you won't confuse new messages with old ones you've already heard.
This Gmail Labs tool might not be much in the grand scheme of things, but it is proof that Google is doing an excellent job of integrating its core Web services with Gmail.
Gmail is already the cornerstone of collaboration for millions of users. Through integration with Google Voice, Gmail is becoming even more empowering. Gmail is now integrated with Docs, Calendar and Voice; one wonders how long before Google Voice integrates with Gmail video chat.
And if Google does that, why can't it integrate Google Voice with Google Talk? As I detailed earlier today on eWEEK.com, such a play could make Google Voice a challenger to Skype.
Eventually, one envisions Google Voice as part of Google Wave, fusing voice communication with real-time collaboration. Now that could be exciting (if not a little confusing).