Once upon a time we had a home phone for personal stuff and a work phone for business; we also had physical addresses for home and work. That is no more! Instead there are now numbers, addresses and identities corresponding (temporarily) to every fragment and facet of our lives: separate e-mail accounts for each job, relationship or network, different telephone, voice mail, fax, Skype, conferencing and workplace numbers; let’s not throw in the many different social networking accounts, instant messaging services and twitter ids…
At every point in this evolution, a new service popped up offering to integrate these disparate worlds. OneBox.com and RingCentral.com come to mind as do a host of other promising services. None of these seemed to offer the reach that allowed you to fully combine all these services under one account (if that was your goal).
Another that seemed to fall into this category was GrandCentral.com: it gave you one number which, when called, rang all your phone numbers at once – something especially useful for that family member or significant other who just had to reach you or for that media organizer whose life is dictated by the employer and impatient news organizations.
Well, Google bought GrandCentral.com about 18 months ago and began integrating the technology with its own business & technology model. The most distinctive addition offered is conversion of voice mail to text messages that can be received by your cell phone and appear in your inbox. Of course, this depends on voice-recognition software that Google promises to continuously improve!
The exact business model for Google Voice has not been publicly declared yet; however most speculation centers around the addition of context-sensitive, targeted advertising based on the voice mail messages.
Privacy and civil liberties advocates will no doubt have important and worthy concerns. Certainly Google’s capacity to target (albeit anonymously) its advertising is but one concern. Now, in addition to your GMail accounts, the company’s database will be able to attach all your telephone numbers and voice mail messages to your single login… and therewith to you photo uploads on Picasa or your video uploads to YouTube and to your social networks via Friend Connect.
More on this to come!