announced its plans for GrandCentral, the telephony service it acquired in July 2007. GrandCentral will be reborn as Google Voice, a comprehensive suite of telephony services, including all of GrandCentral's features. In addition, Google Voice will also include an automated voicemail transcription service, the ability to send and receive text messages, and integration with your Gmail contacts. Users can now also call any number in the the U.S. for free.Google today finally
Opening up GrandCentral
After acquiring GrandCentral, Google continued to operate the old service, but didn't allow new users to sign up. Now, Google has announced that it will first port existing users over to Google Voice in the next couple of days, and will then open up Google Voice to new users.
The new interface will look a lot like Gmail, with your inbox, SMS messages, access to voicemail and other features in a sidebar on the left.
You can make calls directly from the Google Voice web interface. After you initiate the call, the service will actually first call your mobile phone or landline, and after that your call will be placed over Google's network.
Calls within the U.S. will remain free, and users can purchase credit to make international calls (we don't have information about the international rates yet, but we assume that they will be competitive with those that Skype currently offers).
Google Voice will also offer free conference calls.
The automated voicemail transcription feature looks like it will be one of the most useful functions of Google Voice. Transcriptions are fully automated and Google will mark passages in the text where the algorithm was not very confident about the transcription. Transcriptions will automatically appear in your inbox, but Google Voice can also email them to you, or even send you an SMS with the text.
Future Integration with Android?
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).
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Google Voice looks like a clear winner to us. It takes the best features of GrandCentral and adds a number of important and interesting new features like SMS messaging and voicemail transcriptions. Clearly this is one of the most important products that Google has released in the last couple of months and we will post a more detailed review of the service once it becomes available to us.