Google Talk users have yet another way to chat with their Gtalk buddies. The new "labs edition" which was quietly released on Friday brings to your desktop several features that previously could only be found in the Web version. Most importantly, the group chat feature which made its way into the Web version of Google Talk last year, yet was oddly missing from the desktop application until now. Also new to the desktop version are emoticons and notifications from Gmail and Google Calendar, as well as Google's hot-in-Brazil social network Orkut.
Oddly enough, with these extra features there are a few features missing compared with the regular nonlabs version of Google Talk. Important things such as voice-chat and file transfers are not present--features which were the primary reason for installing the piece of desktop software over simply using the pop-out version in Gmail, or the iGoogle gadget.
As Ionut over at Google Blogoscoped notes: with the introduction of the labs edition, Google now has four separate first party tools to access the Talk network; each with overlapping, or version specific features. Something tells me a lot of folks will stick with the plain old Web version that's sitting in their Gmail in-boxes or iGoogle pages instead of dealing with either of these confusing desktop variations. Moving forward I'd like to simply see Google add experimental features to the regular software and mark them as such. Having different versions of the same software is a very Microsoft thing to do.