Among the most useful Gmail extensions today are tools like Rapportive and Xobni that show you more detailed information about your contacts as you read your email. Now, Google apparently wants to get into this market itself (and, after all, those tools replace Google’s text ads with more useful information). The company just announced that a new “people widget” will soon appear next to your emails in Gmail that will show you not just whether your contacts are available for chat in Google Talk, but also additional information like upcoming appointments, documents you may have received from you contacts and recent chat and Buzz messages.
At first glance, this feature looks like it could kill third-party tools like Rapportive (indeed, it looks like a direct Rapportive clone), but in the end, Google’s tool just pulls in data from Google services, while Rapportive and Co. also show you recent Twitter updates and information from LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networks.
This new tool will be rolling out over the next few weeks. If you are interested in having this functionality, though, I would just install Rapportive or Xobni instead.