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Google just announced that it’s rolling out video chat support for its Gmail webmail service over the next day or so. This is very cool — like fellow VentureBeat writer MG Siegler, I’ve already found that Gmail has become the center of my online life; if Google keeps adding new features I may never need to visit another website again.
The new feature will require a 2 megabyte download. Once it’s installed you can start sending video via webcam within a normal Gmail chat window. It doesn’t look like there’s anything super fancy here, but as with Gmail’s instant messaging itself, the addition of video support simply lets users access video chat without jumping to another site or service. It also gives users another reason to leave Gmail open all the time.
For businesses, the new feature is just one more reason to overcome fears of moving data and productivity into the Internet cloud and sign up for Google Apps. That’s particularly true for companies that do a lot of work remotely — as I sit here blogging away at my kitchen table, being able to video chat with my coworkers would make me feel a little less alone. (Aww.)
Google says it’s the first major webmail program to add video chat. And based on the convenience factor, it could siphon off some users from video chat services like Skype; Gmail’s continual addition of new features could also be a threat to startups like Orgoo, which try to become online communication hubs by integrating email, video chat and instant messaging — it looks like the only major feature supported by Orgoo but not Gmail is SMS text messaging.