IM and call with Google Talk

talk_logo.gifGoogle Talk is a messenger client with a “Web 2.0” feel that makes communicating with other Google users a piece of cake. The program integrates well with many of Google’s other products. You can open it inside of Gmail, add it to your Google Desktop bar, or even manage your Orkut conversations directly from Google Talk.

At first glance, Google Talk follows in the company’s tradition of keeping things simple. All your contacts are automatically loaded from your Gmail account the first time you launch the client. You can start a conversation in a click and keep all of your different chats in separate windows. Although, Google Talk doesn’t allow you to call phones, it will let you talk with other Google users and even send voicemail if they are offline. Gmail users will appreciate how the chat client is also embedded in your Gmail account, allowing you to chat with other Gmail users instead of sending emails. Google Talk also integrates into the Google Desktop, making it immediately accessible from anywhere on your PC.

Google Talk doesn’t allow you to set an alias but you’ll still be able to set a user picture. Maybe influenced by all the developments in online music like Last.fm, Google integrates Music Trends to your Google Talk. What this means is that you’ll be able to share your musical history with other Google Talk users. You can also set your status as displaying the track playing on your PC.

gadget_roster.gifGoogle supports the Jabber protocol, so you can chat with friends using Adium, Gaim, iChat or Trillian. You can also connect to your Google Talk account using any of these chat clients. In the future, Google Talk, like most other IM clients, is expected to support Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) meaning you’ll be able to chat and call friends on many more clients like MSN or Yahoo Messenger.

Because it’s such a young chat client, it’s been easy to pinpoint the failings in Google Talk. First of all, Google Talk does not encrypt your conversations or calls, making your discussions available to anyone on the Internet. Many users have also claimed that the Gmail notifications are not very reliable and that Google Talk can suddenly freeze up after you’ve left it on for a while. We also find the user status icons to be too discreet.

Google Talk is not perfect but we think it’s a good bet for the future. As Gmail has shown, Google tends to constantly improve its products so we can expect some exciting improvements soon. The most urgent ones will be to support VoIP to phones, finally encrypt your conversations and to support the SIP protocol. Because of its integration with other Google products, Google Talk is an exciting chat client for Google users. However if you already have a solid chat client and are not a big fan of Google, this application won’t really bring you anything new.

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