Google's GrandCentral has risen. A free single phone number that follows you wherever you go was a great idea. Add a bunch of additional features, allow you to choose what your area code is, and you have a great product. Google felt the same and bought the company while it was in beta. They soon after shut down the beta so no one else could join — likely letting online juices flow to figure out how to monetize it. Silence for almost a year.
As an early adopter, the concept of GrandCentral really intrigued me: a fee-free (for now) system where I could have my friends call me on one number. I could program it to use different numbers and even call from this virtual phone number. If you didn't answer, you could have them leave a message — you could even listen to the person leaving a message without them knowing. If you did answer, then you could actually transfer the call to another phone mid-conversation.
It enabled users — techies, business people, or regular consumers — to have a new single phone number without cost. At work my phone number changes from time to time; having this single phone number was the perfect fix to allow all of my business associates to still easily contact me.
As Google plans to turn the service back on in a week or two, they have enhancements planned to enable even more features. Right now you have to activate the calling features via the Web interface. One of the great new features is to be able to activate via a cell phone; hopefully it will be Blackberry and IPhone friendly.
There's been quite a bit of buzz about the new Google Voice. I'm sure they won't leave us disappointed when it rolls out again under its new name with new features. Thanks Google, one great product you have here.