Some have questioned why Google would have purchased GrandCentral, the phone number consolidator. GrandCentral at face value looks to be a convenient way to combine multiple physical telephone devices into one central contact number. You have the option to add several phone numbers to your account such as a home, a business, and a mobile telephone number which then tie back to your GrandCentral phone number. You have options such as find-me, follow me, ring all phones, and direct to a specific device based on incoming caller (family goes to the cell, unknowns go to voice mail).
Essentially you get a lot of the features of a PBX (private branch exchange, or corporate phone system) all in a nice friendly browser interface for much less than a home phone system. But the real question is why would Google take enough interest in acquiring such technology? My theory revolves around GoogleTalk and the rumored GPhone. Step one is incorporating GTalk’s VoIP technology into GrandCentral. Now not only can you route your single phone number to multiple devices on the public phone network, but you can also have it call your computer where you can converse through the PC. Now that may sound like a pain for the average computer user who would rather grab their telephone handset instead of using the pc with a microphone and headset but it would be great for the traveling user who has a laptop or mobile phone that can run a voice over IP client.
Which now brings us back to the GPhone. If Google does release a phone to compete in the current market they can now add the functionality of GTalk and make it a key calling function on the phone. You would be able to accept calls to your single phone number on your GPhone as if they called the mobile phone directly. Now you may still think “why would I care, I’ll just give out my mobile number to people I want calling it”. This is a very valid point in the current market where the carriers have all the power and can dictate what you can and cannot do with your phone. They will still charge you minutes used weather you use your mobile device as a telephone or an Internet connected data device.
But if Google acquires a fraction of the 700 MHz spectrum that goes up for auction next year when the TV stations are all required to broadcast in the HD spectrum then Google can build a wireless data network by leasing broadcast towers from TV stations who are already wondering how to pay for the expensive HD broadcast and camera upgrades. This would allow them to build a low cost, possibly ad supported network that would be cheap, if not free, for users to connect to. This spectrum would allow Google to use the GPhone as an extension to a GrandCentral account and allow you the intelligent telephone routing that no carrier has been able to come up with yet at a fraction of the cost of current mobile carrier rates. On top of having a phone that only takes calls you want to receive, you’d have a phone with enough wireless bandwidth that not only could it be your telephone, but also capture photos and video with direct linking to Youtube or Picasa online, but act as a home broadband modem for the rural areas who so desperately desire a fast internet connection.
This may be nothing more than hopeful speculation but I do hope Google has the insight I believe them to and begin the next great information revolution for a generation who finds themselves more and more connected.