News breaking out today is that Google has acquired GrandCentral for something around $50 million. GrandCentral is a service that gives you one phone number that can ring multiple numbers, provide one common voicemail - and all sorts of the other features (see "howitworks" for a list of features). As the GrandCentral blog entry says:
We started GrandCentral because we wanted to create a service that puts users in control of their voice communications and not the other way around. As you have discovered, with GrandCentral you get all of your phone calls through just one number that never changes and you can link and ring up to six phones to ring when somebody calls you. But that’s just the start. You can set different rules for each caller (some ring all your phones, other can go straight to voicemail), create personal voicemail greetings for each of your callers, and even check your voicemail on the web with all of your messages in just one inbox. We’ll even save your messages for as long as you want.
I first learned of GrandCentral quite some time ago from Andy's blog and subsequently heard GrandCentral CEO Craig Walker talk out at O'Reilly's Emerging Telephony conference at the beginning of this year. It seemed to be an interesting service, although unfortunately I didn't sign up for the service at the time. (Now you have to wait to be invited if you want to try it out.)
As to Google's motivation, they discuss it in the Google blog entry:
GrandCentral is an innovative service that lets users integrate all of their existing phone numbers and voice mailboxes into one account, which can be accessed from the web. We think GrandCentral's technology fits well into Google's efforts to provide services that enhance the collaborative exchange of information between our users.
GrandCentral offers many features that complement the phone services you already use. If you have multiple phone numbers (e.g., home, work, cell), you get one phone number that you can set to ring all, some, or none of your phones, based on who's calling. This way, your phone number is tied to you, and not your location or job. The service also gives you one central voice mailbox. You can listen to your voicemails online or from any phone, forward them to anybody, add the caller to your address book, block a caller as spam, and a lot more. You can even listen in on voicemail messages from your phone while they are being recorded, or switch a call from your cell phone to your desk phone and back again. All in all, you'll have a lot more control over your phones.
So will we ultimately see voicemail inside of Gmail? One would assume that we will eventually see integration with GoogleTalk, which would give that service its first direct PSTN connectivity. With a GrandCentral integration, GoogleTalk essentially winds up with a "SkypeIn" kind of service that can route calls to you on GoogleTalk. The "WebCall Button" and "Click2Call" services also fit in with other Google efforts to expand further into "click to call" (as you can do now in Google Maps).
All very interesting to see... congrats to the GrandCentral team and it will be very interesting to see what emerges from the integration.