Gmail has had the capability to do voice and video chat between PCs for some time. But starting today, Google is rolling out direct phone calls integrated into Gmail . In the Chat area on the left side of Gmail, users will now see a 'Call Phone' option. The first time you launch it, Gmail will prompt you to install the Voice plug-in. Then you are able to place free calls to the US and Canada. Google has pledged to keep these calls free through at least the end of 2010. International calls are billed at very low rates; calls to France, for example, cost $0.02 per minute.
The interface is a simple dialpad where users can input a number or contact search. There is also a tab for call history in this window. Users with a Google Voice account will have some interesting options here. The outbound caller ID will display your Google Voice number. Should you choose, calls to that Google Voice number can be forwarded to Gmail.
The new feature is rolling out in waves over the next few days, so if you're not seeing it already, you will be soon. To place calls from Gmail, you will of course need a microphone and speakers/headphones on your system. If you've had the chance to test it, let us know how it works.