Google Talk marks first year with upgrade

Upgrade to Google's chat program lets people transfer files and leave voice mail.

Google Talk, which is celebrating its first birthday with an upgrade, will let people easily transfer files and leave other people voice mail beginning Wednesday.

Now people who use the instant messaging and voice chat service will be able to click a "send file" button, choose which document, photo or other file to send, and transmit it through a chat window as a thumbnail that can be displayed in full size.

People also can leave each other voice mail by either initiating a call that is then unanswered or without initiating a call and going straight into voice mail. Users of Gmail, Google's e-mail service, can play the voice mail without having to download anything. But people who use other e-mail software will have to download the MP3 voice mail attachment to hear it.

Another new feature allows Google Talk users to indicate to their friends what music they are listening to via their status message. The new features will initially be available only in the English language version.

Google Talk is a key piece of the search giant's strategy to make it easy for people not only to search for any kind of information in any location, but also to communicate with each other in various ways online.

"We are investing in a real-time communications platform. Google Talk is the first instance of that," said Mike Jazayeri, a Google Talk product manager.

Google Talk competes with popular chat applications from AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft. Last month, Yahoo opened its latest Yahoo Messenger with Voice, with nearly 200 plug-ins, to the public. Microsoft publicly launched its new Windows Live Messenger in June and added drag-and-drop file sharing and automatic contact updating.

As part of a $1 billion Google investment for a 5 percent stake in AOL, Google and AOL will make their chat services interoperate. Jazayeri said he could not provide a time line for when that might happen. Google is already interoperable with services that use the open XMPP, or "Jabber," chat standard, he said.

Meanwhile, Yahoo and Microsoft made their chat services interoperable last month.

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