Google is doing it again and has made VOIP calls from GMail free for the USA and Canada through 2012. It’s Google’s gift for the Holidays and Google also reminds everyone that it also offers calls to the rest of the world at rates that it calls “insanely low”.

This is a great way to gift GMail users, while at the same time promoting Google’s VOIP capabilities. Chances are that a huge portion of GMail users also use Skype, which was recently bought by Microsoft.  At the moment, nothing dramatic has happened, but it is expected that Skype will be integrated in the Xbox 360 at some point in time, and that it will be critical to the social media efforts of Microsoft. In the short term, the Skype acquisition has put some stress on existing Google/Skype partnerships.

Google’s offering provides a good service, and Google has the benefits of having a lot of users that already have a Google account. Now, it is a matter of giving them a taste of something that they will come back to, and there’s nothing like a holiday giveaway to do it. To place a call, you just need a Google account and the voice and video chat application. [official announcement]

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