As the first Android enabled handset, the T-Mobile G1 has got a fairly short list of complaints – among them is the lack of VoIP support. Wired heavily criticized this absence (as did many tech sources) in a pair of articles that paraphrased T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Cole Brodman, saying ” he had “worked with Google” to make sure Android couldn’t run VOIP.
But could Google be holding a wildcard? In July of 2007, Google made an acquisition that has been all but forgotten, purchasing Grand Central Communications and announcing the move on Official Google Mobile Blog.
Google explains: “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.” Take a look at this demo from 2006, before they were purchased by Google:
I try not to use bad language but… holy crap. This is pretty revolutionary stuff. This system, demonstrated in 2006, puts Verizon’s Visual Voicemail to SHAME and introduces a whole host of features previously impossible with mobile phones. But it goes beyond mobile phones.
Google’s OpenID web initiative has been documented to a much larger extent, hoping to offer users a single login and internet identity across all sites on the web. On the surface, GrandCentral appears to be the mobile version of this concept… “One Number… For Life”… but in reality it could mean a WHOLE lot more.
Imagine GrandCentral running as an Android Application that was tied to a web component which you could also view via your mobile phone. And while we’re at it, lets take a look at what Google’s Help Doc says about GrandCentral’s VoIP capabilities:
GrandCentral isn’t just another VoIP call service. We’ve tapped into VoIP technology to build our service, but GrandCentral works with cell phones, desk phones, VoIP lines, and everything in between. There’s nothing to download, upload, or install, and you don’t have to make or take calls using a computer.
Now we’re talking. If T-Mobile has somehow “locked down” and completely disabled VoIP Apps on the T-Mobile G1 then GrandCentral might be the only hope. And therein is the trick: GrandCentral isn’t really a VoIP application in itself, afterall, it works with landlines and other cell phones as well.
So we’ve got ALL these different phone numbers, profiles and locations where we use different phones and data services in different places and GrandCentral allows us to consolidate, making the consumer’s experience incredibly more convenient.
WAIT A MINUTE. Does this not seem to jive almost PERFECTLY with the recent patent application that Google filed for “Flexible Communication Systems and Models”? One quick look at the diagram they included really shows the similarity in their vision/purpose:
See allllll the different locations where people could be using different phones in different manners? Google could simultaneously help you consolidate them to ONE system that automatically uses your preferred settings for connecting to calls. Afterall, thats a feature thats built into GrandCentral already… this patent would simply further the capabilities.
Folks around the web have been claiming this patent application suggests that Google wants to turn wireless and broadband services into an auction marketplace similar to its adwords/adsense advertising system. At first, this seemed like a long shot. But when viewed in context with GrandCentral, it seems much more possibly. Purchasing and setting up your wireless contract preferences with different phones/locations/profiles would simply be another set of options in the GrandCentral interface.
Keep in mind that the video you viewed was from 2006! Things have come a long, LONG way since then. I mean, wasn’t the RAZR still cool in 2006? HA! GrandCentral has probably progressed through many iterations and I would guess, is ready to accomplish so much more and probably within the Android framework.
Combine that with the new Clearwire/WiMax 4G network that Google has a financial stake in and there could be some very big things to come. Sprint/Nextel is launching the network October 8th in Baltimore – we’re located in Baltimore so we’re hoping the press conference and event will provide further clues. Its all up in the air and there are a ridiculous amount of contingencies, but the pieces of the puzzle certainly exist.
But what about GrandCentral being used in the short-term as an Android Application? Could it happen? We know that Google’s products and services often spend a lot of time in Beta-ville, so what is in the cards for GrandCentral?
The financial terms of the GrandCentral acquisition were never released, but we know that Google didn’t just up and purchase the company for the fun of it. Google MUST have some types of hopes, plans, strategies, ideas, integrations, whatEVER planned for GrandCentral.
So what do you think? Where and when will GrandCentral fit into the picture, if at all?