The other day I received an email from GrandCentral with the subject line: Invitation to sign up for GrandCentral.
Like everyone else I receive plenty of bogus invitations to sign up for this or register for that. It smelled like spam. "Who the hell is GrandCentral?", I thought. But before clicking the spam button, I decided to check the email. It started:
Good news! We are excited to announce that we are opening the GrandCentral private beta to some additional users and would like to extend you an invitation to sign up.
Then I realized that back in June when the news of Google purchasing GrandCentral had hit the wires, I had added myself to their waiting list. So I proceeded with the registration and got my own number.
This is a pretty neat concept. You get to choose a phone number and you can link it to several physical numbers. Then, depending on your choice, an incoming call will ring all or some or none of the numbers. It comes with voicemail, Caller ID, email forwarding and a number of other features. Most activities can be done online as well as over the phone. It's presence, call forwarding, and messaging all wrapped in one package. Best of all it's free, and you can keep the number for life. As things are with Google products, GrandCentral is in Beta and probably will be for years.
It remains to be seen how Google will fully monetize GrandCentral. There are some paid features, I believe, but I assume the majority of users, myself included, will only use the free services. So I presume, like most Google properties, GrandCentral will come to rely on advertising for a big portion of its revenues. That will probably include text ads on the site, voice ads inserted before or after playing voicemails, or ad links included in notification emails.
I wonder if GrandCentral future plans include free fax service. That would be a natural progression and it would position them against some long-established services like jConnect that offer free fax numbers and whom I have been a satisfied user for a number of years.