Google has divulged its new tool on Wednesday after quite a few months of feverish gossip regarding a mysterious new service under development: Google Talk, a text-chat and voice-communication program that looks nice, but has no apparent advantage over competitors. At once you fire it up; the auxiliary white design as well as the primary-color logo makes it obvious that this is a Google application. Google Talk shrinks down to a "speech bubble" icon on the Windows taskbar when it was used. Clicking on this opens the main pane, with a searchable list of your contacts, or "friends" as Google optimistically calls them. For starting a voice call just click on a name to kick off text chat or else click on the phone icon which is next to it so that the person you are calling hears a ringing tone and can answer if they wish for. Separate windows are also opened for each and every voice or text conversation in a precise manner.
A broadband internet connection is vital for voice calling. While testing international calls, I found the quality of voice was too good. Any standard microphone, headphones or headset will work. The software adjusts its compassion for your microphone, though you might have to look into the Windows control panel and if your existing sound settings are seriously crooked. Also it entails little tinkering under the hood of your PC. I tried it on three different PCs running Windows XP and Windows 2000, and in all cases, it worked fine. Entirely it worked even through a Linux firewall, across the internet as well as inside a LAN. You can also text chat with people using other programs that are well-suited with the open Jabber/XMPP protocol, such as iChat and Gaim.
On a pair of occasions, text messages got deferred in transmission and took quite a lot of minutes to emerge, but this will take place very rarely. So smoothly does Google Talk work that it's easy to forget this is beta software. It's really the lack of features that telegraphs Google Talk's prototype status. If you're familiar with feature-laden competitors like MSN Messenger or AIM, it would roughly be easier to describe Google Talk in terms of what it doesn't have: no cheery emoticons, no fancy fonts and no file transfers. There's no advertising at all, a curious leaving from Google's standard operating procedure and sole source of income.
There's also no way to call to or from traditional telephone networks. That's a major difference from Skype, the internet telephony wunderkind, which holds between 30 and 46 percent of that market, depending on which statistics you look at. So, if you're already using Skype, why should you switch to Google Talk? Since the program is closely integrated with Gmail, which might be nice if that's your main e-mail provider. In the future, Google says it intended to affix a raft of new features, together with support for other operating systems, encryption, compatibility with other internet telephony standards, and versions with a user interface in languages other than English. But for now, there really isn't any compelling reason to switch. Google Talk certainly doesn't enjoy the clear advantages over competitors that Google Search or Gmail had at their introductions.
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