Home Google Acquires GrandCentral – Game on Skype!

Google Acquires GrandCentral – Game on Skype!

Google’s 2007 acquisition spree has continued, with the acquisition of GrandCentral – a service that lets users integrate all of their existing phone numbers and voice mailboxes into one account, which can be accessed from the web. Interestingly, Google says they bought GrandCentral because it fits well with their other services that “enhance the collaborative exchange of information between our users.” In other words, this is yet another Web Office play from Google.

In today’s increasingly virtual and fragmented workforce, a service such as GrandCentral is an ideal complement to other Web Office tools such as GTalk, Gmail and Docs&Spreadsheets. As Josh Catone wrote in his post Rolling Your Own Online Office, the key to a successful distributed team is communication. And GrandCentral is a service that makes telephone communication much easier and gives more control to the user – e.g. you can set rules as to what calls you accept and when, and even hear why someone is calling before taking the call.

I think this will also ruffle some feathers at Skype/eBay. I use Skype a lot – and I have a Skype-In San Francisco phone number, because even though I live in New Zealand the center of my work existence is Silicon Valley (and 50% of R/WW readers come from the US, compared to just 0.8% from my home country). Skype-In is a handy service, although the call quality tends to be poor. But GrandCentral appears to offer a lot of compelling features, which may in time make my Skype-In number redundant.

Unfortunately, right now the GrandCentral service is restricted to those who have a U.S. telephone number and also the service isn’t accepting new users at this time. However you can “reserve” a number by submitting your name and email address. I can’t wait to try it out. Game on Skype! This is the sort of functionality we’ll expect in online telephony services from now on, so Skype needs to step up to the plate and compete with GrandCentral on features.

What’s more, once again Google has positioned itself at the leading edge of innovation in an emerging Web Office market segment. They did it with wikis (JotSpot), online word processing (Writely), email (Gmail), RSS (Feedburner) and perhaps with presentation software too.

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