I’ve been using the Google Talk application for years. It’s a lightweight Instant Messaging client that was built upon open standards and doubles as a pretty good Gmail notifier. My reason for not using another Yabber client like Miranda was that that wouldn’t allow voice chat, which I often use professionally.
Things turned a little ugly when Google decided to add a web-based gtalk ‘gadget’ to Gmail. All of a sudden I found myself being logged into the same account twice, with messages popping up in either the web or the desktop client without any sort of logic. I was quick to disable the Gmail gadget, but yesterday’s announcement of ‘Google Talk voice and video chat‘ had a big surprise in store for me. It’s a web-client-only feature.
In my opinion, Gmail is the best email client, bar none. I use it not just for the convenience of being able to log into your email anywhere, but mainly for it’s superior features and usability. The gtalk gadget is an altogether different beast. It too can be accessed anywhere, but it’s nowhere near as convenient as the desktop client. New chats don’t pop up automatically, there’s no way to have the contact list pop out and you need to keep a browser window open all the time to avoid being logged out.
Up until yesterday it also lacked features when compared to the Windows app, but now the one killer feature that both lacked is available only in the web client. And it works very well. I had a little trouble getting it to use the right microphone, but once that was sorted I was able to video chat with a friend in a noticeably better image quality than for instance Skype has to offer. Audio also seemed a bit better, and the interface is as clean as we’ve come to expect from Google.
So, will video chat eventually be added to the desktop application as well, or is Google forcing us to use the chat gadget? Has the desktop client been abandoned? It hasn’t gotten any new features in ages and there are no Mac or Linux versions. On top of that, the new video feature was been built using Flash, which probably makes it harder to incorporate into an application since Flash is very much a web technology. And will they add file transfer to the gadget?
** UPDATE **
As it turns out, there are even more options when it comes to Google Talk. There is an iGoogle ‘gadget’ that pops out, but that does not have the video chat option. Here’s a little overview:
|Feature||Windows application||Gmail gadget||iGoogle gadget|
|Video chat||No||Yes (Mac/Windows only)||No|
|Start with Windows||Yes||No||No|
Am I the only one to find this a bit confusing?