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from the L.A. Times

Google lets you make phone calls from Gmail

Google introduced a new feature that allows you to make telephone calls from Gmail, putting the Internet giant in competition with Skype and phone companies such as AT&T.

Gmailphone For years, Gmail users have been able to talk over their computers or video chat. But they could not call a mobile phone or landline.

Now they can click “call phone,” in the chat tab on Gmail and then dial the number on a telephone keypad, the Internet giant said Wednesday.

Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free of charge for the first year. Calls to other countries will be as low as 2 cents a minute. The rates are similar to Skype, which is owned by private equity firms and auction giant EBay. It is looking to raise as much as $100 million in an initial public offering.

The service works with Google Voice, the company’s phone and voicemail service. Users of that service can now choose “computer” as one way to receive calls.Google is rolling out the new feature over the next few days. 

-- Jessica Guynn

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