It took a full 20 months since the Grand Central acquisition but perhaps the wait has been worth it. Google just rolled out Google Voice, a service which expands on the one number for life idea.
I spent a few minutes trying to logon to Google Voice and finally realized the company will let me know when my Grand Central account has been upgraded. If you don't have a Grand Central account you need to wait for the company to allow you to become a free Google Voice subscriber but you can add your email address to a list now to expedite the process.
The new killer feature the company has implemented is voicemail to text or voicemail transcription. Why is a great feature? The answer lies in your ability to read voicemails while on the phone, in meetings, etc. In other words you no longer are forced to listen to messages.
Another benefit is the ability to search for old messages at a later date based on keyword.
The challenge for Google is the competition which at the moment is companies like Spinvox and Simulscribe/Phonetag uses humans to transcribe messages (counter to what many in the industry have said in the past) which means their accuracy is greater than Google Voice which will use speech recognition by computers. Still the Google solution is free which is the right price for this economy.
Since the Google acquisition, Grand Central hasn't evolved and in fact was shut down to new users. Is this the beginning of a new era at Google where its voice services will be a focal point of the company? Time will tell but I am looking forward to better integration between traditional telephony and Google services.
It is worth pointing out that Google continues to use its ad subsidized business to finance free services in numerous markets. While this can be considered good for consumers I expect this news will add more fuel to the movement of people and perhaps government regulators looking to potentially break Google up.