Google Buys GrandCentral Communications

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Google announced plans July 2 to acquire GrandCentral Communications for an undisclosed amount, furthering the search engine’s expansion into the communications market. Though Google offers a chat function for users through its Gmail service, the company had no previous voicemail options available.

GrandCentral, a California-based service that consolidates phone numbers and voice mailboxes into one Web-based account, allows users to combine home, work, and cell phone numbers into one number. This number can then be programmed to ring to one or all of a user’s phones. In addition, voicemails are consolidated and are accessible via either phone or online. The service also allows users to listen to voicemails as they are being recorded, and receive or block calls based on who’s calling.

The merger would allow current Google users to receive and send via their account. Google’s acquisition allows the company to further compete with Yahoo!, whose current phone service, Dialpad, allows users to send voicemail messages through their email account. On July 2, Wesley Chan, product manager at Google, posted on GrandCentral’s Web site that the merger would allow Google to, “provide services and features that enhance the collaborative exchange of information between our users.”

The GrandCentral service is currently being offered for free in beta version to all current GrandCentral customers, while Google plans to send out a limited number of invitations to other users with a U.S. phone number in the near future.

“We do not have a post-beta pricing plan yet,” says John Murchinson, a spokesman for Google. “We will send out a limited number of invitations during the beta period, but will be open publicly in the near future.”

The purchase of GrandCentral is another in a chain of Google’s acquisitions this year. The company bought YouTube for $1.65 billion last October, followed by the purchase of DoubleClick in April for $3.1 billion. The GrandCentral merger, however, marks the first step Google has taken toward carving out space within the voice industry.

GrandCentral’s owners, Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet, founded the company in 2005 after working together at the VoIP start-up Dialpad, the company acquired by Yahoo! Both will stay on with the company as services are developed.

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