Monday, July 23, 2007

One number to rule them all

A few weeks ago, Google bought Grand Central, and being one of the Google believers, I signed up to be an invitation-only beta tester right away.

For those that don't know, Grand Central is a web based service that gives you a phone number that will ring what ever phones you set it to. The idea is that the phone number is associated with the person, not the location (home, work, mobile, etc.). So you can give everybody one number and their call goes through to whatever phone you are sitting by.

This isn't about making yourself infinitely more reachable, it is about giving people control, both the caller and the callee. The caller knows that the call will reach me, whether I am at work, at home or on the road. As the callee, I get great functionality like call screening (caller's get announced, plus I can listen in on the voice mail - like with an old answering machine). All my voice mail comes to one place, which is accessible by phone or by the web and my contact details are easily managed (although there are some contact manager applications that do it better) and integrated with the phone.

As a remote worker, being able to be reached is important to me. It is just as important to me that I can find out who was trying to reach me, when I choose to be unreachable. Having the address book and voice mail web accessible just makes it all of the better.

But something I think is even neater is the talk of the Google Phone. With a service like Grand Central, the phone doesn't need to have lots of memory or features - it can be just a simple phone with a good web browser. It doesn't need an address book, it can use Grand Central and keep the on-phone memory requirements low. With an integral web browser, you could get at your email (Gmail) and your calendar (Google Calendar mobile). You could take the dumbest phone out there and have the same functionality as a smart phone.

I think that it is really neat, because it could take so much of the costs out of the gadget and give so many more people, in the US and the world, digitial, mobile communication and computing.

I think an idea like this goes hand in hand with Google's planned bid on the upcoming FCC bandwidth auction. They have the applications, which are in most cases, pretty well optimized for mobile browsing. They'll have the spectrum, if they spend their 4.5 billion USD. Then all they would need is a device. And users. I'd be the first to raise my hand...

But back to Grand Central. I never need to tell anyone another phone number, even if I change them, because I change cellular providers, jobs, or VOIP phone provider. That kind of convenience is the greatest. So far, after using the service for about a week, I love it. I've given them some feedback about features I would want or things to tweak, but it is a great concept and a great execution.

1 comment:

Beau said...

Cliff- I'd be happy to share an invitation. But you aren't somebody I know and the lack of content on your blog makes me think you aren't for real.