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Yesssss! Grand Central survives Google's cuts

For a moment this morning, my heart sank when I heard that Google was cutting out some of its underperforming and duplicative services - Dodgeball, Mashup Editor and Notebook among them. I took a deep breath as I scanned the list in search of Grand Central, the virtual phone number service (for lack of a better description).
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

For a moment this morning, my heart sank when I heard that Google was cutting out some of its underperforming and duplicative services - Dodgeball, Mashup Editor and Notebook among them. I took a deep breath as I scanned the list in search of Grand Central, the virtual phone number service (for lack of a better description). Whew! It wasn't there.

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For me, that's good news. It tells me that either Google isn't quite ready to pull the plug on Grand Central or that it has bigger plans for the service it acquired waaaay back in July 2007. OK, the "bigger plans" thing is wishful thinking on my part. And I was starting to give up hope. But I really do want to see Google do something with the service already. It has potential to generate some revenue with premium services. And it also has the potential, I think, to generate some interest among the growing mobile workforce.

In a nutshell, Grand Central provides a virtual phone number that rings any phone you tell it to call. My Grand Central number - which I use as my "mobile office" number - simultaneously rings in three places: my landline phone at home in Silicon Valley, my desk line at the office in San Francisco and my mobile phone.  Once I answer it at home, the other lines stop ringing.  If I don't answer it, it goes into my GC voicemail, not the VM systems on the three receiving lines. And, of course, I can hear that VM later online or in an email. There are plenty of premium services that I - and other mobile workers - would be willing to pay for. It would be cool if Grand Central incorporated fax services, similar to those used by Efax, into GC. I'd like to be able to customize the Caller ID feature. And I sure would like to incorporate GC services directly into Gmail, instead of a separate, standalone grandcentral.com site. I could go on and on.

There are competing services out there - including Newber, iCall, Phone Fusion, and TruPhone - but most have per-minute calling fees involved. Ugh, I hate per-minute fees.

As for the other services, I'm sad to see Google Notebook go because I was a power user. But Google is right. I can use Google Docs to take and organize notes. But other than that, I'm not heartbroken about saying farewell to the other services. In fact, I don't think I ever said hello to them.

So, once again, thanks for saving Grand Central, Google. Now, it's time to do something with it. Beef it up, start offering us power users some customization tools and we'll gladly cough up a few bucks every month.

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