Google's constantly-evolving strategy has the company pivoting to protect its search supremacy from the Yahoo-Bing alliance (and the revamped Ask.com), while also aiming to tackle Facebook as the go-to social hub of the Internet. And, if yesterday's announcement is any indication, to "gut" Skype by allowing users to make free phone calls from their Gmail accounts. The new feature shows Google's desire to make Gmail the keystone of its burgeoning communications services. But the company still faces challenges in wooing entrenched customers away from Skype. Tech and business pundits debate the search giant's new step.

  • A 'Bold Move' to Battle Skype declares David Goldman at CNN Money: "As always, the question with any new Google product is how the company will make money on it." But the real key is whether Google can successfully promote the new service. It previously had well-documented troubles marketing its app services and the now-defunct Wave to corporate customers. "Like Skype, Google has an opportunity to sell its service to corporations," Goldman writes. "Google said a paid version for business customers will be coming out soon."
  • It's Not a Skype-Killer, but it's a viable option, reports Brad McCarthy at The Next Web. Gmail has close to 200 million users--a far cry from the 590 million that currently use Skype. Also, he writes, the lack of anonymity in Gmail's phone system (it uses Google Voice numbers) is a drawback for Skype users who prefer to not give out much of their identity. The convenience of Gmail's phone can't be beat though.
  • Google Will Undercut Skype's Prices  writes David Gelles at The Financial Times. While Skype has many more users, only 8.1 million actually pay for that service and Google plans to aggressively compete: "In a price comparison chart that showed rates from Google and the 'leading internet telephony provider', Google offered cheaper calls to landlines and mobile phones in the UK, Mexico and France."
  • The Real Target Is Facebook  ventures Ryan Singel at Wired. The mere fact that the company didn't release the phone function as a stand-alone app means that it isn't specifically targeting Skype users. Instead, it aims at cementing "both Gmail and Google accounts as central to web user’s experiences" and setting the stage for a "rumored fall launch of a social networking service to compete with Facebook." The phone service is just one more reason for users to log in to gmail, and when Google Me (the networking site) emerges the company will be able to tap these diverse consumers.
  • Gmail Becomes the Ultimate Communications Hub and it was a natural step after a previous feature that allows users to send texts to phones, writes Erica Naone at Technology Review: "It was a smooth, impressive step toward blurring the lines between the different forms of communication that people use on a daily basis." The phone service only builds on this premise and signals that the company will centralize other systems in Gmail.
  • Consumers Are the Beneficiaries of the Web War between Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, notes Brier Dudley at The Seattle Times. While roll-out of the phone service recalls a time when the Web giant lured consumers to Gmail with a massive amount (for the time) of storage space, the blogger notes that free long-distance in the U.S. is only promised for four months. But that's merely a quibble for the students who will be drawn to the service as they look to connect with friends and family.