Barely a day goes by without a rumor that search engine giant Google is entering yet another client software and online service arena. In a relatively short time, we've seen the company release products for desktop search, e-mail, mapping, news and shopping info aggregation. Now Google tackles instant messaging and VoIP, with the introduction of the Google Talk Beta.

Starting today, Gmail (which is still in beta itself and invite only) users can download, install and run the client for free. According to Georges Harik, Google's Director of Product Management, "millions of users" and all Gmail member swill find their existing contact lists instantly ported to the new instant messaging client.

There's isn't much to the Google Talk interface. In stark contrast to America Online's instant message AIM client and Microsoft's MSN Messenger, Google's instant message interface includes no ads, search bar, scrolling stock tickers, videos, or even links to content from Google's numerous sites. This makes for an extremely lean interface and little but effective functionality. So while Google Talk Beta offers no emoticons, video or file transfer capabilities (features found in MSN and AOL clients), it does install and work smoothly. It also offers presence indicators in the form of colored buttons and contact name roll-overs that feature more info about the contacts status. Also notable is the inclusion of easy-to-use, full duplex—and free—VoIP that works with any PC that has a microphone and speakers.

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