Tag Archives | GrandCentral

GrandCentral: It Lives!

Google VoiceEver since it was acquired by Google back in mid-2007, the interesting and useful phone service GrandCentral has been in the news for only two reasons: service glitches and skepticism over whether the service, which has been in closed, largely unchanging beta since the acquisition, would ever show any signs of life. Tonight, at long last, there’s good news: GrandCentral is relaunching tomorrow, under a new name that sounds like it was probably inevitable: Google Voice.

Over at TechCrunch, Leena Rao has posted an upbeat preview of the new version, reporting that Google Voice will keep existing GrandCentral features such as the ability to ring all your phones at once so you never miss a call you want to take, and to screen your calls so you never take a call you want to miss. It will also add the ability to receive text messages, and a text-to-speech feature that lets you get your voicemail as e-mail.

Leena also talks about Google Voice providing cheap international calls and conference calls, which suggests that it’s becoming a service for outgoing calls as well as incoming ones, at least to some degree. Currently, a GrandCentral number is really only half a phone number, since it’s for incoming calls only–and there are usability issues in the fact that when you make outgoing calls, the folks you call see your “real” phone number and may add it to their address books, thereby making it hard to train them to call you on your more powerful GrandCentral number.

The TechCrunch report says that a beta for current GrandCentral users launches tomorrow. (I’ll jump on it as soon as it’s available and let you know what I think–if you’ve ever called me at Technologizer’s business number, you’ve dialed my GrandCentral number.) The beta will be closed at first, but Google will begin to let more people in during the coming weeks.

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The Loneliness of the Early Adopter

I’m an Early Adopter. I like to be among the first to try out new products and services. If you were looking for me on the Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle—the bell-shaped curve that’s a favorite of product managers—you’d find me on left side of the curve, just after the truly courageous Innovators but before the onset of the rabble of the Early Majority. (Image below from Wikipedia.)

Rogers Curve

Being an early adopter means that sometimes I’ve been left in the lurch when a product or service I adopted early failed or was pulled inexplicably from the market. Were you also a user of Pownce, Yahoo Photos, or Google Notebook? Everything has a natural lifecycle, of course, and I have to expect that some of the products I (perhaps too eagerly) embraced will not survive. Since I’m an early adopter, I’m likely to see more products and services fail than other people, who are a bit more conservative and are located farther to the right on the Rogers curve, maybe in Late Majority or even Laggards.

Recently, however, we’ve seen some products seemingly abandoned by their creators. These vendors have just stopped talking to their customers. As you might guess, this is a bad sign. I compare this to a relationship. Early on, your boyfriend or girlfriend tells you everything about themselves—what they like to eat, their favorite songs, their dreams and the minutiae of their daily lives. Later, if things aren’t working out, you’re lucky to hear if they decide not to show up for a date.

I eagerly purchased the Dash Express last year, an innovative device and service that brought two-way Internet connectivity with live traffic reporting to mobile GPS. Recently however, Dash announced it was discontinuing sales of the Dash Express device to concentrate on licensing their application and service to unnamed device manufacturers. The last post on their blog is dated November 3, 2008. There’s been a flurry of comments asking for more clarification, but Dash has kept mostly mum. I hope for the best but am expecting that soon I will have to select another GPS for my car.

Dash, are you stuck in traffic somewhere?

I use GrandCentral for my business phone number. Their service was extremely promising: a VoIP solution that gave you a number of great services and one phone number in the area code of your choice that could be forwarded almost anywhere. When Google bought them, I thought they would be around for a while. But their last communication on their Web site is dated April 22 of last year saying they are “working hard every day on the next great version of GrandCentral and a ton of cool new features.” Then, nothing.

GrandCentral, you never call.

I haven’t heard from Dash or GrandCentral that they’re pulling the plug, but I’m bracing myself for the news. If good products like Pownce, I Want Sandy, Stikkit, Yahoo! Photos, Google Notebook, and Jaiku can be cut, how do I know what will be next? GrandCentral promised me a phone number “for life.” Truth is, I never really believed that. I still have the checkbook from a defunct California bank that promised me “free checking for life.” They neglected to say that they meant their life.

These are tough economic times and I have to expect that even my favorite vendors will be cutting back on less-than-successful products and services. I understand. I just wish that you would talk to me sometimes, just to tell me what’s going on with you and that you’re still OK. I’ll just sit here by my computer or phone, waiting for your tweet or call or e-mail or SMS telling me we can be friends, even if, you know, we’re not actually together anymore. If you called, you’d probably say that it’s about you, not me. That’s OK. I’ll understand, really I will.


Grumbling About GrandCentral

GrandCentralLike me, WebWorkerDaily’s Judi Sohn uses Google’s GrandCentral phone service, which sports an array of fancy tricks like auto-forwarding to multiple numbers at once. When Judi logged in this morning, she found her browser telling her that GrandCentral’s SSL security certificate had expired. She uses that as a springboard to fret about the future of GrandCentral in general: It’s been in closed-beta limbo for eons, and Google shows no signs of readying it for general release. She ends with the ultimate vote of no confidence: a request that Google shut down GrandCentral and help people transfer their phone numbers elsewhere.

I didn’t have the certificate problem myself, but I’ve wondered what the heck is going on with GrandCentral in these quarters before. Confession: Despite the fact that GrandCentral is beta, I use a GrandCentral number as Technologizer’s main business phone number. For the most part, I’m happy with it. But  Judi’s skepticism that GrandCentral will ever emerge from beta has me paranoid that it may go away, and that I’ll be sorry I handed out all those business cards with a GrandCentral number on them.

If nothing else, I should probably be worried about the fact that GrandCentral’s home page no longer trumpets the slogan “One Number…for Life” (here’s what the tagline looked like back when it was there, plus some additional promises about the service’s permanence):

One Number For Life

I guess “One Number…Until Google Decides to Direct Its Attention Elsewhere and Quietly Shutters the Service” doesn’t have the same ring to it…

To be clear, Google hasn’t said that GrandCentral is at risk. Actually, it hasn’t said much of anything about the service since it acquired it. It’s conceivable that it’ll add new features and/or take it out of beta any day now. And I’ll choose to take it as a good sign that it wasn’t among the services that Google did kill or scale back a couple of weeks ago.

For now, I’m still using and liking GrandCentral, and I’m certainly not willing to join Judi Sohn’s call for Google to euthanize it. An encouraging word or two from Google would be nice, though–especially if the gist was “we’re investing in GrandCentral and intend to roll it out to all comers as soon as we think it’s ready.”


GrandCentral, Where Are You?

Back in May of 2007, I reviewed GrandCentral–a service that provides a virtual phone number with a seemingly limitless bag of tricks–for Slate. My verdict was mixed. But GrandCentral passed one important test: Sixteen months later, I’m still using it. In fact, I’m using it as Technologizer’s business line at the moment: It’ll ring my call phone or any other phone I want, lets me screen calls, and includes slick Web-based voicemail. Did I mention it’s free?

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