When I take a call on my "office number," I usually end up giving a quick two-minute explanation of Google Voice, the company's virtual phone service.
I hate to come across like a sales guy for any tech product but I have to say that people who call me on my Google Voice number are intrigued by the service and I tend to get pretty excited about it, as well. Seriously, it is probably one of the biggest breakthrough technologies to hit the telecommunications industry since call waiting or the arrival of the cell phone. And now, it seems that the service may be getting to roll out to the public.
ZDNet blogger Garett Rogers pointed out in a post over the weekend that Google has reserved one million phone numbers from Level 3 Communications, an indication that it's gearing up for a big rollout of accounts.
Google Voice, for the unfamiliar, allows users to use a virtual number that can be programmed to ring at any number of the user's choosing - home, office, cell or even temporarily at the in-laws place in the country where cell phone service is hit-and-miss, at best. It also allows users to send and receive SMS messages through the number and offers voicemail transcription services that can be delivered to users via e-mail or SMS text message.
In my case, I use a Google Voice number as my work number, programming it to ring simultaneously on my office, mobile and home numbers. I've also programmed calls to go directly to voicemail during the evening and weekend hours when I'm technically "off the clock."
The service has been in private beta since it changed from Grand Central, the name of the company that Google acquired back in 2007, to Google Voice back in March. The service is free and Google hasn't had much to offer in details about how it plans to monetize the service. It's already pretty powerful but I know I'd be willing to pay extra for some premium and customization services, such as fax support or the ability to add a second phone number to the account (one for work purposes and another for friends and family.
TechCrunch reported earlier this month that Google is testing number portability as a option, which would allow users to move an existing phone number - such as the home or cell number - to Google Voice, instead of getting a fresh number and sharing that with others.
It's tough to say when Google will unleash the service. But when it does, watch out for the mad rush of sign-ups. The service has received rave reviews and plenty of folks I've come across are excited about getting a Google Voice number of their own.