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GrandCentral Reborn as Google Voice, a Suite of VoIP Services

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voice-logoGrandCentral, a “one number for life” service provider acquired by Google (s GOOG) in July 2007 is being reborn as Google Voice, a comprehensive service that is essentially a Microsoft Office-type suite of communications-related services. I say that because the new service is a collection of VoIP-related features that one can typically get from different startups. New features include:

1. You can use your GrandCentral number to send and receive SMS messages, and have them forwarded to your current wireless phone. You can send messages from the mobile or from the phone.
2. Make phone calls using the web or your mobile/landline phone.
3. You can get transcripts for voicemails left on Google Voice. These transcripts, based on internal Google technology currently being used by GOOG-411 service, can be sent to you via SMS.
4. Create conference calls by dragging phone numbers onto existing calls. This will be useful for small businesses and web workers.
5. Free calls to all U.S. numbers. You can make international calls but that will cost you, depending on the country you are dialing.

googlevoice_inbox_croppedThe original GrandCentral features, such as voicemail screening and personalized greetings, are still available. Your voicemails can be emailed to you as attachments. Just as a warning, the upgrade to Google Voice won’t allow you to take your GrandCentral address book with you, since the new system uses Google Contacts. In addition, the service doesn’t work with those of you who have Google Apps accounts; you’ll need Gmail accounts. Lastly, they make you use Google Checkout to pay for international minutes. No thanks — I am happy paying with PayPal and/or credit cards.

At the time of the launch of the service, Vincent Paquet & Craig Walker, co-founders of the company had outlined this vision in a conversation back in 2006. With Google Voice, GrandCentral is truly becoming “one number for life.”

Bottom line: The Google folks upgraded my account, and after some heartburn, I got it working. As part of its new life as Google Voice, the GrandCentral web site has been redesigned to resemble Gmail, which I like mostly because, like many of you, I have become used to the sparse user interface. The SMS, voicemail and transcription services worked as advertised. The upgrades are truly worth the wait, and I have no hesitation in recommending this service to one and all.

45 Responses to “GrandCentral Reborn as Google Voice, a Suite of VoIP Services”

  1. In many other spaces online today I have read about how Google Voice spells the demise of all sorts of other voice offerings – from emerging providers right through to major operators. I don’t buy that, and actually I don’t sense that the creators of Google Voice believe that to be the case either. Does having Google in the voice space change the playing field? Sure. But getting to market with advanced voice services is lot less hard than it used to be – last week was plenty evidence of that – so voice is now full of great entrepreneurs who can in their own way hold their own and continue to grow,

    Companies like GotVMail, RingCentral, Phone and Ifbyphone – to mention a few – are thriving in growth because their singular focus is bringing reliable, feature relevant voice services to their audiences. These companies are very good at serving small businesses, which is not yet a clear target of Google Voice. And lets not forget that beyond brand loyalty, increasingly we have ‘user-interface loyalty’, with the latter being much harder to break.

  2. Mrktmind

    There are some downsides to Google Voice over cell phone/Skype.

    The biggest one is when you want to dial out using VOIP you have to dial two numbers – once to your Google voicemail #, push another button to get a dial tone, and then dial the number you wanted in the first place.

    Second downside (potential) is what monitoring/tracking Google will apply to this.

    But the big feature I see the is the ability to direct calls by phone number to different voicemail boxes and/or set it so your phone won’t ring at all and go straight to VM for certain numbers.

  3. Josh Hoffman

    One thing that google missed is a handy way to set “do not disturb” in GC it was in the quick menu in google voice it is in settings. I use this feature all the time when I’m on meetings and don’t want my phone to ring through.

  4. @Alex, I was thinking along similar lines. I wonder how long it will take before we see Google Voice integrating into Gmail itself or the two being integrated into a universal messaging system. Gmail already supports IM and video conferencing. Adding VOIP makes a lot of sense and if the interfaces are so similar (still waiting to find out if I’ll be able to use the service if I am in South Africa), it doesn’t seem to be a stretch to think the two will come together soon.

  5. It is working with my Google Apps account.

    Conversion from GrandCentral ended with an error message, and some of my customization, e.g. my name, outgoing message..etc did not come through, but otherwise it’s working.

  6. with the new SMS features (FINALLY!!) it seems like you might want to consider porting your mobile number into Google Voice – assuming that’s possible. I’ve got a “better” mobile number than my GC number ….

    Also I wonder if we’ll see Android owners get this as a standard service…

  7. Another thing that occurred to me is that with the lack of Google Apps support you will still need to keep two separate address books going, or possibly more. Big oversight on their part if you ask me. Wonder if they are going to have the option of “moving” from your Google account to your Google Apps account down the road. It will suck if you had to get another number to work with your Apps account.

    Also, anyone know of GrandDialer for the iPhone works with the new version?


  8. techuser

    Finally !!! Incoming sms … Woo hoo. The biggest deal breaker for me was the lack of incoming sms to your Grandcentral number. Now that this is in place, I really can use the single number. I’ll be dipping in to it slowly though and handing out the Google Voice number to a few folks to begin with and see how the service works before doing as mass conversion.

    There’s no stopping Google in coming up with useful products. Having a lot of money obviously helps.

  9. Dog Man

    Here is my REAL concern. I like GC for the features it offers (have used it for years), however the latency makes it almost impossible to use. When someone calls your GC number and it connects to you, its as if you are talking on a 1980’s, half duplex, international call. Can anyone verify if they have fixed this HUGE problem?? If not, I think I might just say goodbye (and good riddance) to this product once and for all…..

  10. I’m looking forward to being able to change my number at some point. We reserved a Colorado number when it looked like we would be setting up a branch office out there, but that idea never came to fruition, and now we would like to use the service for our Ohio office.

  11. It is not spectacular at all what Google tries the truth. In Spain already we have Operators of Telephony who offer us it and much more. The topic of the Voip, geographical numbers and of intelligent network, up to virtual switchboards that can be used by your Voip. Without going beyond. Look At Telefacil they offer much more and have opened the world.

    • @Monica

      I am not sure what is your point here? Google has its a new service which they are offering to people in the US. What is being sold in Spain by local companies has little bearing on this news. Or am I missing a point?

  12. Hardeep Singh Dang

    Thanks Om,

    Now I have to get the Grandcentral Address book exported and import that in Gmail and finally get it in Google Voice.

    LOL not a big task. Its ok.

  13. If they offer premium numbers , they will start earning money on this – just like Skype does with Skype Prime (Premium Call) service or regular operators. Let’s call this service Google Voice Prime.
    Who has the nerve to listen to a bunch of voice ads in the conversation? No to mention that technology behind voice ads is much more expensive than web ads…
    Google Checkout service might be paired with Google Voice Prime, as well as SMS and mail (voice2txt and vice versa) – they already offer such services. This might be the next monetization oppoortunity, just like AdSense.

  14. Hardeep Singh Dang

    Hey OM,

    Just wanted to confirm about the Address book. Now that You are in the new Google Voice. Did It come? or U suggest getting an export of it and then importing it in to Google Voice?

    You see the option of importing address book?

    • @hardeep dang

      No you are not able to import your address book. it is an unfortunate downside of the whole system but on the other hand you have integration with your google address book.

  15. Sweet! Can’t wait been looking forward to this since the announcement. Not happy about the Google Apps link not setup, so far I think thats the only downside. Anyone know if it will ultimately be possible to move it from my Google linked account to my Google Apps account?



  16. Hi – I don’t see much a business case in this. If they are planning to play localized ads, I am sure it will not go anywhere. There should be something more to it.

    Companies such as 800 PBX, Phone, Ringcentral all provide many many services and go beyond just one number for all concept. Few of them are voice driven and offer advanced IVR solutions as well. However, none of them are profitable and wouldn’t be for at least the next 1-2 years till the adoption of PBX goes up in B2B space.

    B2C as grandcentral is just a cookie cutter.

  17. Hi – I don’t see much a business case in this. If they are planning to play localized ads, I am sure it will not go anywhere. There should be something more to it.

    Companies such as 800 PBX, Phone, Ringcentral all provide many many services and go beyond just one number for all concept. Few of them are voice driven and offer advanced IVR solutions as well. However, none of them are profitable and wouldn’t be for at least the next 1-2 years till the adoption of PBX goes up in B2B space.

    B2C as grandcentral is just a cookie cutter.

    – Manohar

  18. @all

    if you are a grandcentral users you can upgrade starting today or latest tomorrow. I think you are going to like it. others can get on the bandwagon later this month, Google tells me.

    Josh Guttman — oh that domain has so many memories.

  19. I haven’t used it yet, but based on the review, it sounds like it’s a shell of the VOIP services that are possible and could/should be offered. I just learned about who have acquired a handsome domain and are offering a plethora of services, which include all these, but then extend far beyond into the Maestro/Wildfire realm.