Ever since it was acquired by Google back in mid-2007, the interesting and useful phone service GrandCentral has been in the news for only two reasons: service glitches and skepticism over whether the service, which has been in closed, largely unchanging beta since the acquisition, would ever show any signs of life. Tonight, at long last, there’s good news: GrandCentral is relaunching tomorrow, under a new name that sounds like it was probably inevitable: Google Voice.
Over at TechCrunch, Leena Rao has posted an upbeat preview of the new version, reporting that Google Voice will keep existing GrandCentral features such as the ability to ring all your phones at once so you never miss a call you want to take, and to screen your calls so you never take a call you want to miss. It will also add the ability to receive text messages, and a text-to-speech feature that lets you get your voicemail as e-mail.
Leena also talks about Google Voice providing cheap international calls and conference calls, which suggests that it’s becoming a service for outgoing calls as well as incoming ones, at least to some degree. Currently, a GrandCentral number is really only half a phone number, since it’s for incoming calls only–and there are usability issues in the fact that when you make outgoing calls, the folks you call see your “real” phone number and may add it to their address books, thereby making it hard to train them to call you on your more powerful GrandCentral number.
The TechCrunch report says that a beta for current GrandCentral users launches tomorrow. (I’ll jump on it as soon as it’s available and let you know what I think–if you’ve ever called me at Technologizer’s business number, you’ve dialed my GrandCentral number.) The beta will be closed at first, but Google will begin to let more people in during the coming weeks.