Following closely on the heels of its Monday release of Google Desktop 2, Internet search giant Google--which is quickly becoming a leading online media company--today launched the Google Talk IM service. Based on the Jabber IM standard, Google Talk can communicate with users of Jabber, iChat, and Trillian, and Google says it will soon open up the tool to users of MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).    <P>
Google Talk is open to the public and is free, without ads, and requires a Gmail user account. Users without a Gmail account will receive one when they sign up for Google Talk, the company says, provided they don't mind giving Google their cell phone number to prevent people from squatting on valuable email addresses.    <P>
Compared with other IM solutions, Google Talk is lean both graphically and feature-wise. Although the system offers text and voice chatting and a clean, uncluttered interface, it doesn't offer any video features and can't be used as a telephony solution. However, Google's products are perpetually in beta and are often upgraded quickly. The company says that its rapid-fire update policy and adherence to Internet standards will set Google Talk apart from the competition.    <P>
"Communications is very important for the transmission of information," Georges Harik, the director of product management at Google, said. "This is a natural extension of what we're doing in communications."    <P>
Google is entering a crowded market. Today, the IM market is dominated by AOL, with 41.6 million active users; Yahoo!, with 19.1 million users; and MSN Messenger, with 14.2 million users. However, Google's recent moves suggest that the company isn't particularly afraid of fighting for established turf. Google's recently released Google Desktop 2 includes a feature called Sidebar that closely resembles the UI work Microsoft is planning for Windows Vista. Sidebar includes extensible panes that can deliver Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds, email, news clips, photos, and other information. And its free Gmail email system, which offers 2GB and more of storage space for free, is poised to steal market share from Microsoft's Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail now that it's being made more widely available. Meanwhile, Google is also squaring off against Microsoft and Yahoo! in Internet Search and related technologies.    <P>
In related news, Microsoft this week released MSN Messenger 7.5, the latest version of its consumer-oriented IM client. MSN Messenger 7.5 adds full-screen video conferencing, high-quality voice communications, and other features. Like Google Talk, MSN Messenger 7.5 is free.    <P>

Links

Google Talk beta
http://talk.google.com

MSN Messenger 7.5
http://messenger.msn.com/