Google is being very quiet about Grand Central, the virtual phone service it acquired in July 2007 but hasn't really done anything with since. In my opinion, Grand Central is already a good service. There are a few features I'd like to see added but, for the most part, it's working for me - so much so that, in a blog post a couple of weeks ago, I called it my favorite telecommuting tool.
Naturally, some readers went to the site to learn more and sign up. But it turns out Google has closed the service to new registrations and has no details on the site about what's going on or when the service will re-open. I shot off a note to Google to request an update but the best I got was a pretty non-revealing answer: "As you may know, we acquired GrandCentral in the summer of 2007. Since then, the team has been hard at work migrating GrandCentral over to Google's infrastructure, which is why the service is now in a closed beta test."
Hmmm. That's a frustrating and kind of secretive answer. Now, I really want to know what Google has planned for this service - and apparently I'm not alone. A couple of other blogs, one as recent as this month, also have asked what's going on with Grand Central. But there are no answers to our questions.
That's unfortunate because Grand Central has strong potential to be an even better service - especially when you consider how "open" Google was with Android. With so much talk about the economic uncertainty, I'd hate to see Grand Central's future get shelved because of cutbacks. It could be that Google has had so many other things going on - Android, Chrome, Apps, Mobile, StreetView and, of course, the ad business - that Grand Central ended up being more like a hobby for Google, like the way Steve Jobs feels about AppleTV. Even better, I'd love to hear that Google is planning a major announcement around Grand Central - but that clearly isn't the case yet.
I hope Google doesn't sit too long. There are other products out there in this space. Phone Fusion, for example, kicks it up a notch by offering fax and email capabilities, as well as virtual receptionist services for small businesses. Unlike Grand Central, Phone Fusion charges monthly subscription fees that start at $9.95.