Next Gmail feature may be VoIP

Google is expected to make an announcement as early as today about a brand new Gmail feature, and initial leaks suggest calling features like missed call icons and voicemail notifications will be added to Google Talk.

Google’s instant messaging service, which has become a smash hit thanks to its ease of use and simplistic embedding into everyone’s Gmail Web page, already allows users to chat with one another through video and voice transmissions. It does not, however, offer any way to talk with people outside of Google Talk.

The online search giant has a separate service called Google Voice, which lets users place calls to people using a special customizable virtual phone number. According to reports, the new Gmail feature will not require users to have a Google Voice number, which suggests it may be a completely new service built from the ground up.

Skype has a veritable stranglehold on the VoIP market right now. Its dominance not only on PCs but also a strengthening presence on other devices like mobile phones and TV sets, has made it the premiere player in a once-muddled Internet calling market.

How Google cold compete with such a formidable player remains to be seen, but it certainly has the numbers to draw in a potentially large userbase. More details will follow as Google surely steps up to confirm or deny these rumors.