If Google search revolutionized the Web, and Gmail revolutionized free e-mail, then one things for sure: Google Voice, unveiled Thursday, will revolutionize telephones. It unifies your phone numbers, transcribes your voice mail, blocks telemarketers and elevates text messages to first-class communication citizens. And thats just the warm-up.
Google Voice began life in 2005 as something called GrandCentral. It was, in its own way, revolutionary. It was intended to solve the headaches of having more than one phone number ... [by] offering you a new, single, unified phone number, in an area code of your choice. Whenever somebody dialed your uni-number, all of your phones rang at once.
GrandCentral, a one number for life service provider acquired by Google 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.
You can use your GrandCentral number to send and receive SMS messages, and have them forwarded to your current wireless phone ... Make phone calls using the web or your mobile/landline phone ... You can get transcripts for voicemails left on Google Voice ... Create conference calls by dragging phone numbers onto existing calls ... Free calls to all U.S. numbers.
The 21 month delay between acquisition and relaunch was, unfortunately, expected. Like most Google acquisitions, the service has been rebuilt from the ground up ... Google is finally bringing us the voice service that was promised back in 2006. With GrandCentral, you no longer have to wrestle with 3 or more phone numbers and multiple email and texting devices. You give out one phone number, administer it with a website or voice menu, and forward calls to various devices depending on whos calling and when.
Google has also fixed most of the limitations with the original service ... If they ... can prove that the service is reliable ... they can conceivably control the phone numbers for millions of people and eventually find a way to monetize all that power.
For all those of little faith who had given up on GrandCentral, all I can say is "Surprise."
This puts huge pressure on Microsoft's Office Live to offer more than what it does as Microsoft has a huge hole in the voice department there. The addition of free transcription, though not as accurate as SpinVox or PhoneTag, both which employ live transcriptionist, will mean that the value of SpinVox at least gets called into question. From my perspective Google's speech recognition, something Microsoft can challenge with its TellMe group, also puts SpinVox in their cross hairs for acquisition.
Lost in all the hooplah about the release of Google Voice is this disturbing fact: The service will give Google enormous amounts of information about the intimate details of your everyday life, including recordings of your voice mail and possibly your phone calls. Combined with what Google already knows about you, it could mean your privacy is at an end.
This is Voice 2.0 or voice capabilities integrated into the web experience verses the other way around where the voice guys are trying to bring the web experience to the phone. VoIP calling has been around, but what I like about GrandCentral is the robust feature set.
They have everything here to support the user behavior of Web 2.0 or better yet - the Unified Communication dream. Leveraging voice across the web is what the users are looking for and of course in any environment. This makes voice fit the web services business model as well as the user model of time and device shifting.
We can't help but wonder if Google will integrate the voicemail and transcription service with Android as well. In this video, Google shows the mobile version of Google Voice in the browser on an Android phone, but we assume that Google will release a dedicated Google Voice app for Android in the future and maybe even make it an integral part of the Android experience (if the carriers allow Google to do so, that is).
Ive played with it and am sold. It adds free transcription to your voice messages on a tidy Web page, as well as SMS forwarding to your cell phone, and host of other goodies ... My favorite: a way to forward unwanted stalkers to a message that says your phone has disconnected.