I was fortunate to be able to meet with Craig Walker, the CEO of Grand Central last week, thanks to Andy Abramson. The purpose of our meeting was a meet and greet as well as be briefed on some new things brewing in the Grand Central labs. Now that things seems in the clear, I can share…
First, in case you have not heard of GrandCentral, they are (in my humble opinion) the leader in a new class of companies which all play in what’s being called Voice 2.0. GrandCentral is unique in that they provide a total solution, where many other players in the game offer one or two of the features that are all found within the GC platform. You start by selecting a new free phone number – I went for a local number. You then tell GrandCentral about all your other numbers (work, cell, home, SIP, Gizmo, Skype, Truphone etc etc…) as well as upload your address book. Now the system is read to rock and roll!
The basic premise is that when you are called on your GrandCentral number, all your phones begin to ring so you can easily be found. You can assign rules as to how you’d like callers to be handled based on how or if you know them, how they might be calling you or even just by time of day. Your home number defaults to “not ring” during business hours, assuming you are at work or on the road though you can easily override this if you like. As calls start coming in, you’ll immediately realize the power of the system. You can choose to use ListenIn, by pressing 3 when a call comes through to hear part of the person’s message before answering (press *) if you like. If you start having an important call and need to keep track of things, you can record the call with a press of 4. As if that’s not enough, GrandCentral also let’s you transfer the call over to any of your other lines with a simple press of *, which then starts your ring chain, so you can easily move from home to cell or visa versa if you like. David Pogue summed things up nicely in his video homage a short while ago.
The new stuff, which I saw last week and have been using a bit to explore more deeply is more closely connected with the mobile experience. Craig enabled my cellphone voicemail to route to my GrandCentral account with a forwarding code so my messages would start to aggregate in one place. Previously I was still getting cellular voicemail separately from my GrandCentral line and this centralization has huge benefits. It instantly simplifies my life and because it’s integrated with my GrandCentral account, I am connected to a much more robust contact list than I normally sync to my mobile. The other cool thing I was shown, which launched last night is the GrandCentral Mobile web site! This site which you can log into from any mobile device – I’ve been using my Nokia E61 and N800 to test things the past 24 hours and it’s very cool. Grand Central mobile logs you straight into your voicemail log, giving you instant “Visual Voicemail” access. You can listen, manage or respond to calls from your phone’s browser. I’ve found it to be quite responsive — even on my EDGE connection. The site is very efficient and something I think most power users will get a great deal of utility.
While everything is currently free, I asked Craig about the ways in which GrandCentral might begin to charge for services. I don’t think anything we discussed is ready for primetime, but it’s clear the basic service will remain free. As Craig and I talked, we were joined by Phoneboyand our discussion continued into how we are likely to merge even our land line voicemail into the Grand Central system! This is very compelling to me personally and it seems to Craig as well – since both our wives generally do not actually answer the home phone!
I’m confident from my discussion that GrandCentral’s development plan is far from complete and that they will continue to revolutionize how we use the existing as well as new and emerging voice technologies and services. Even the average consumer has two phones which can easily be consolidated into a single free number. Once it’s all connected the power and control is truly in your hands.
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