Google on Wednesday moved into direct competition with Skype, the internet telephony service, as it unveiled a feature that will enable its Gmail users to call landlines and mobile phones from their e-mail inbox.
The new feature broadens Google’s growing array of communication products and creates a potent rival to Skype, which is preparing for an initial public offering.
“It might cloud the impending IPO a bit,” said Ray Valdes, web analyst at Gartner. Earlier this month, Skype said it planned to raise at least $100m with an offering on Nasdaq by the end of the year. Google faces an entrenched adversary. Last year, Skype became the leading carrier of international voice calls. In the year to June 30, Skype’s registered users rose from 397m to 560m. Gmail has just over 200m users.