Today I received an invitation to Grand Central, Google’s latest buyout that they announced recently. I had heard of it before, but Google’s buyout piqued my interest. I started the sign up process, where they let you pick an area code (any US area code is allowed), then they provided a list of phone numbers to choose from. After some additional information about myself, and a list of all my phone numbers, I was up and running!
This service is amazing! Phone and voice communications have finally been brought to the web with Grand Central. With Grand Central, I’m given 1 phone number. I can then use that phone number to, depending on who calls me, designate which of my home, work, or cell numbers those people get forwarded to, whether they get to talk to me personally, talk to my voice mail, or just get denied service. I can tell it to screen all blocked calls, or certain groups to force them to provide a voice name, which it will tell me when I answer the phone. It will use bayesian-type filtering to detect “spam calls” which you can tell it what to do with those.
I can also choose a custom tone that all or only specific users get. I chose a New York guy who talks to you as you’re waiting to talk to me – he patiently says to hold on, that I’m going to pick up soon. They also provide some other pretty funny ones. I can tell it to forward all my voice mail to my e-mail address, or cell phone (via text message), or both. They also provide me with an e-mail address (my phone firstname.lastname@example.org) that I can give to others that forwards to my personal e-mail.
The most powerful thing to this is the contact list. I imagine this will be tied to GMail’s contact list in the future, but you can set up contacts, and groups those contacts are assigned to. Integration with gmail is definitely going to happen. I can select any contact, click “call”, and it will dial my phone, then connect me with their phone. No longer do I ever have to tell others to change my phone number – one number, all the time, and it seemlesly points to all my other numbers.
I’ve said it before, but I really think this is just one more step towards Google entering the cell phone market. Google I am betting will some day sell cell phones with all this software on it. It will seamlessly integrate photos with picasaweb, send e-mail and text messages via gmail, and integrate incoming and outgoing calls with Grand Central. Voice mail will integrate with Grand Central. Such a phone will have GPS capabilities, will automatically give directions via Google Maps to the locations you want to go to, and will use AdWords to target users based on the location they are at. Hey, with Google entering Health Care why not let it sync with your Doctors Office or Pharmacy and provide your Medical Health History all for the Doctor to see? All the pieces are slowly coming into place – how long will it be before Google owns the Cell Phone market? Grand Central is just one more piece to this puzzle.
Hey – if you want an invite, let me know and I’ll send one your way.