Google has been making wireless headlines recently with its new operating system
for cellphones, Android, as well as its decision to build open wireless
networkswhich fly in the face of traditional networks run by operators like
AT&T Wireless. But its not yet entirely clear just how this will change the way
you use your wireless devices.
But Google (nasdaq: GOOG news people ) could have something else up its
sleeve. In mid 2007, the company acquired the Fremont, Calif.based company
GrandCentral Communications. The terms were not disclosed, but the company has
long been known for its innovative services. GrandCentral was founded in 2000 by
nowCEO Craig Walker and Chief Operating Officer Vincent Paquet. In its early
days, the company procured around $4 million in funding from CNET founder Halsey
Minors Minor Ventures.
The idea behind GrandCentral: A phone number, and the voicemail box(es)
associated with it, should not be tied to a location or even to your job.
Instead, the numbers should be tied to you as an individual. If you have a few
different phone numberssay, one for work, one at home and one for your
cellphoneGrandCentrals service will let you use just one number that can ring
on all, some, or none of your phones, based on whos calling.
Another smart feature: The service gives you one central voice mailbox. So you
can listen to your voice mail messages online or from any phone, forward them to
anybody, add the caller to your address book, block a caller as spamand much
more. You can even listen in on voice mail messages from your phone as theyre
being recorded (as is possible with an "oldfashioned" answering machine), or
transfer a call from your cell phone to your desk phone and back again.
This all reminds me of a very forwardlooking story Andy Seybold wrote in 2003,
in an issue of a newsletter, called Wireless Outlook, that he published in
conjunction with Forbes. Andys lead story in June 2003 was called "Phone Number
for Life." He was talking about local number portability for mobile phones,
which is now commonplaceGrandCentrals service takes this service a step
further, beyond just wireless telephony.
GrandCentrals Webbased service is called One Number for Life, and so far, its
been offered for free. (You can sign up for the service at
grandcentral.com.)Besides helping you organize and manage calls and messages,
you can also personalize ringback tones and greetings for individuals in your
address book. Using the service does not require you to change phones or
When you sign up, youll get a choice of local numbers, based on your area code.
You can then configure your account by linking the number GrandCentral gives you
to your home number, office number and cellphone number. When a call comes in,
all the configured phones will ring. You can choose which phone to pick upso
if youre at home, you can pick up the call on your landline phone to and avoid
paying for minutes on your wireless phone.
You have a number of other options as well: You can accept the call, send it to
voice mail, listen to it as the voice mail is being recorded, and pick up if you
want to. You can even switch phones in the middle of a live callsay, home
phone to mobile, or mobile to desk phoneseamlessly, with the use of a simple
keypad command. When a caller reaches the subscribers GrandCentral number, a
softswitch queries the configured feature set and takes appropriate action.
One avenue Google will surely pursue is linking up GrandCentrals features with
its other Webbased productivity tools, namely, its email service, Gmail, and
its VOIP service, GTalk. Of course, the bigger question is whether Google can
succeed in using its handy arsenal of Web tools to crack into Microsofts
Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT news people ) desktop dominance and prove a real
threat to ubiquitous software like Outlook.
Android, open wireless networks, GrandCentral, GmailGoogle is clearly
executing a bigpicture plan to be at the forefront of the digital age, and
wireless services will likely be a core strength for the company. I believe
well be seeing a lot more from Google in 2008 on the wireless front.
** Check out out
Prepaid Calling Card