This is probably a futile attempt to prevent a flood of discontent with a pinkie’s worth of words, but I’ll try anyway.
The so-called VoIP Blogosphere, which is rapidly moving from a mutual admiration society to a constantly-mention-each-other-in-order-to-jointly-grow-our-Google-dollars society, has grown enough to actually have an impact on the success of new products.
It looks, from posts from a number of sources in the past day or so, that the latest target of the chummy “me too” nay-sayers is GrandCentral (GC), a product that launched, in clearly marked “beta” form, three days ago.
The attacks are undeserved.
Carolyn Schuk wrote more extensively of GrandCentral here, so I’ll just describe the basic idea behind the brainchild of former Dialpad execs Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet: Get a phone number and use it as a sort of hub for all your phone services. Give your GC number to anyone you want, and when a call is made to you, the service will find you wherever you tell it to (your home phone, your cell, your work phone, your weekly meeting of the “Getting Things Done” support group, wherever). If you don’t answer, the call goes to a single voice mail account, stored on GC’s servers.
It’s a simple but powerful idea aimed at people with too many phone services, too many numbers and, for me most importantly, too many voice mail depots to keep track of.
Some of the criticisms — minor glitches when GrandCentral.com is viewed in Firefox, a clumsy address book import feature — can easily be dismissed as typical of a beta offering . . . and just as easily fixed in new releases.
Perhaps GrandCentral is nothing special to people who collect phone numbers (for reasons that escape me) and have little trouble wading through an Asterisk conf file to make some sense of a mess of their own making.
For those of us who have trouble remembering our three numbers (home, cell and work), and find it annoying to check for voice mail at all three, being able to easily combine all our numbers into one is quite nifty.
And some of GrandCentral’s other features are definitely innovative. The ability to annotate voice mail messages for later referral, for example, is something I am finding very useful, and something that is not available with any other service (why not?). A single-click to mark a call as “spam,” an elegant method to record individualized outgoing greetings, and easily made customized outgoing ring tones are all interesting features.
The keyboard-armed critics of GrandCentral say they have too many numbers already. They probably also have too many telephone devices that they have played with and thrown in the their closets after 15 minutes. And they have 15 softphone clients installed on their computers, and about 8 different methods to make video calls.
I would want a simpler life too. That’s what Walker and Paquet are offering with GrandCentral. Let’s hope the bloggers don’t kill their efforts before they get it out of beta.