Last night a very tired, yet happy Craig Walker called with news. For all those of little faith who had given up on GrandCentral, all I can say is "Surprise."
What has been in the works for more than a year, has now come to fruition. GrandCentral has become Google Voice, and there are a ton of new features that are going to make some people see stars.
Om got the jump on this (only because I was sleeping) and has the list of details on all the new features.
For Walker and his long time partner Vincent Paquet, plus Google's dealmaking king Wesley Chan, the wait to bring GC Version 2.0 to life has been worth it. Largely, the time was spent determining the features that matter and integrating with Google.
My take-GC 2, now dubbed Google Voice will bind people closer to Google. Once the paid customers like me who have a Paid Apps account can use it, 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. MSFT will need a solution, and Spinvox's carrier partnerships make them interesting, but given MSFT's penchant for buying number two may actually make PhoneTag (the company formerly known as SimulScribe) even more attractive.
The SMS to any wireless device is a big play. Perhaps the one lacking feature that was most asked for was that one. The transportability of SMS has always been an issue and with people dropping landlines, Google Voice really becomes the landline replacement first, then your mobile phone or a SMS capable softclient on a laptop all of a sudden has more utility to those wandering types who text.
As a founding shareholder in GrandCentral, I'm proud of what the team has done. Not only have Vincent and Craig delivered. They've come up with more than before, and done it without having to charge anyone, except for international calls, a market that is very, very lucrative.
While GV can call International numbers, at present you won't be able to set up an International number as a dedicated destination just yet, but Craig told me "that's coming."
As the service now works with the free Google account, but will work best with the address book tied to the free Gmail service, so with Google Voice, the Mountain View giant may have given users one more reason to make their Gmail service an almost essential for the calling crowd.
One side note. The Google Voice service is being rolled out in waves so not everyone will be getting it from the start. First you have to be an existing GrandCentral user, and then you must have a GMAIL account.
For me, GrandCentral is "the gift that keeps on giving." Then again, it did pay for my wedding :-)
P.S. Can you guess whose voices it is on the inbox welcome message in Google Voice?
The official announcement from the Google Voice Boys is available here.