The company did the same thing in 2010 and 2011. With the announcement, Gmail users will once again get another year of free voice calls from the Gmail chat widget.
Mayur Kamat, Google Product Manager, made the extremely brief blog post / announcement:
Many of you call phones from Gmail to easily connect with friends and family. If you're in the US and Canada, you'll continue to be able to make free domestic calls through 2013. Plus, in most countries, you can still call the rest of the world from Gmail at insanely low rates.Google introduced voice calls from Gmail in August of 2010 after first introducing voice and video chat within Gmail back in 2008. When it introduced the feature, Google said the free voice call program would last only a single year.
Of course, there are good reasons for Google to continue the service. Not only does it give Gmail an advantage over other webmail services (with the additional plus that Google can glean user data while users use Gmail), it also keeps people from migrating to other services such as Skype.
We'd prefer they just say that it will be free forever, but these annual announcements do hearten Gmail users. On the other hand, if they do eventually end the service, it will be a very gloomy day.
It's sort of reminiscent of why we gave up on the iPhone. We always said the best smartphone was a jailbroken iPhone (and remember Apple, it's legal), but we also grew weary of waiting for the next jailbreak. It was also the case that there was always a chance an iPhone or iOS couldn't be jailbroken.
There's that fear that Google might end the program, which to use would be like never being able to jailbreak our iPhone again (hence, the switch to Android).