News is flying around the blogosphere and tech news sites, after TechCrunch broke the news that Google is in talks to acquire or has already acquired GrandCentral, the “one number for life for all your phones” telephony company.
The basic idea around GrandCentral is to give everyone one single number so that your business and personal associates don’t have to know all your numbers. Calls to the single number can be routed to a variety of phones, depending on rules set by the user. These rules can be set depending upon your relationship to the caller and the time of day. This concept is also called ‘one-number reachability”.
There are several strategic areas where GrandCentral fits within Google’s strategy.
- Connect to the Telephone Network: Google Talk doesn’t have connectivity to telephone numbers. In other words, Google Talk is a PC-to-PC calling application that only works with GTalk clients and other XMPP-based VoIP services. Enter GrandCentral, and voila! Google can terminate calls to telephone numbers.
- Collect User Information: Google knows your email address from Gmail or iGoogle, search habits from Web History, locations of interest from Google Maps, your locations from weather information… You get the picture – Google knows a lot about you. But Google doesn’t have a key ingredient to creating a full and complete profile about you; your phone numbers and who calls you. Incidentally, this is also one of the most private of all public information that people have. For example, I will almost-freely give away my email address (see my LinkedIn profile) but will almost never give my phone numbers unless I know the person well. With GrandCentral, Google has the opportunity to get all your numbers! Why does Google need this? so that one day Google can precisely target ads to you and customize search results not just to the context, but to your profile as well.
- Store voicemails and recorded calls forever: Getting a voicemail in your email inbox is easy stuff these days. GrandCentral allows you to record calls too. With GrandCentral, Google can store voicemail and recorded calls forever. Google may be able to transcribe these audio recordings and use it to serve customized ads and to enhance what Google knows about you.
- Call from a Web page: Google already has the store front, purchasing, payment, checkout available. All it needs is a way for customers to embed a call button on a web page and Google can take the fight to Skype and eBay.
PS. Although TechCrunch says “We are trying to nail down the acquisition price.”, the title of the post implies that Google is paying $50 million for GrandCentral. See http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/06/24/google-to-acquire-grand-central-for-50-million/.