Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hello, Grand Central. . .

For those who are looking at that last post and wondering what on earth I was thinking, I thought I'd share some details.  The 'Call Me' button you see on the previous post is part of a new service from Google called GrandCentral.

What GrandCentral tries to do is consolidate your phone service. You get one new telephone number (You can't currently port an existing number into the service.) which you can then control through their web site.  Depending on how you set it up, the one new number will ring all of your other phone numbers at the same time whenever someone calls.  So if you have a Cell phone, home phone, and work phone, all of those phones ring when someone calls your new number.  You can answer from any of those phones.  And if you don't answer, it goes to grandcentral voicemail.  The web site includes an inbox for voicemail, where you can listen to, reply to, or forward messages, just like email.  It will also notify you via email or SMS whenever you get a new voicemail message.

The CallMe button is another part of the service.  When you click the button, it asks for your name and phone number.  Once entered, the service will call the phone number you entered, and connect you to me, using the same 'call all my phones at once' technique as mentioned above.

There are lots of other bells and whistles as well, such as Call Screening, different greetings for each caller/group, different ringback tones for different callers, CallSwitch, Visual Voicemail, and more.  It's really something you should check out if you have multiple phone numbers.

Right now, the service is in beta, and available on an invitation only basis, so if you want to try it out, you've got to know someone who's already a member and get them to invite you.  There is, however, one bonus to the 'beta' status -- it's completely free.  You can use it all you want, and it doesn't cost you anything.  And don't worry, they're not going to get you hooked and start charging some ridiculous amount.  They've made it clear that at some point, the 'advanced' features like being able to call from a web page will cost something, but the core features will always remain a free service.  Of course, based on Google's history, it will likely remain in beta status for a long time to come.

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