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Google Inc said users of Gmail will now be able to call telephones directly from their email, putting it in direct competition with Web calling service Skype and companies such as AT&T Inc, according to GulfNews.com.

While Google had already offered computer-to-computer voice and video chat services, starting on Wednesday it said it will allow calls to home phones and mobile phones directly from Gmail for the first time.

Google promised free calls to US and Canadian phones from Gmail for the rest of this year and said it would charge low rates for calls made to other countries.

For example it said calls to the U.K, France, Germany, China and Japan would be as low as 2 cents (NZ2.8c) per minute.

It said making a call works like a normal phone in that a user could click on the “call phone” option in their chat buddy list and type the number or enter a contacts name.

Skype, owned by private equity firms and eBay Inc, has long allowed consumers to make phone calls from computers, as well as computer-to-computer voice and video calls. Skype said earlier this month it aims to raise as much as $100 million in a public share offering.

According to the BBC, Skype, which is the most successful internet phone offering, is said to lay claim over 560 million registered users. The firm said 124 million used the service at least one a month while 8.1 million were paying customers.

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