Thursday, June 07, 2007

Insanely Great: Grand Central

As regular readers may have figured out by now, I'm not a big fan of most carrier applications, as I am unconvinced of their long term value due to commoditization, and customer eduction and habituation issues. For me, it's got to be really (really) good before I'll fall in love with it. Iotum gets my nod, and now GrandCentral joins that illustrious crowd.

Grand Central is a one-number service done (nearly) perfectly. You can take your GrandCentral number and point it to all your numbers. It does automatic call screening, forwarding and voice spam handling. During a call, you can simply press 4, and the call is now recorded. Like any good iPBX or VoIP carrier play, you can see all your calls, contacts and messages online. I especially like the Web 2.0 look and feel of the site, although I wish they would go all the way with a Web 2.0 approach (more about that in a bit). It's even adroit enough to put the call on hold for you as you switch from one phone to another. As a personal call solution, I have never seen better. Insanely great.

How does GrandCentral stack up?
  • Technically, a definite A minus. I love how they have solved the problem of call handling, and takes a hard problem and makes it easy. Almost on the order of the iPhone UI design, from where I sit. I give them a minus because I think they should go whole hog and publish an API so I can mash it up. I can't begin to tell you the good ideas I have for that one. Otherwise, perfect, perfect.
  • Businesswise, a strong B+. Real value here, and well worth my investment of time to learn how to use (and it's really easy to use.) I'm going to knock them for two points : they should start charging for this service... I would pay $20.00 a month for this. Come'on guys - make some money. Secondly, it is still a horizontal service, and replication of it isn't rocket science, so sustainable competitive advantage from the features looks difficult. However, it's easy for me to see how it might become entrenched in people's work flows, and there's many Web 2.0 data mining / social networking opportunities there too. They'll do alright.
  • Buzz, A+. Call me jaded, but this level of excitement over a telephone service doesn't happen too often to me. Anyone who isn't jazzed about this service isn't paying attention.


Dean Collins said...

Ever tried to port your number away from Grand Central?

What people need to realise is that having a central service with anyone apart from your own control 'ties' you to that vendor.

Perfect example was a company started up here in NY who in their second year became a client of mine.

The Australian CEO had no idea that when their USA number was set up by a previous employee it was tied to that voip provider and even though the service was terrible (not grandcentral btw) changing to a different vendor also came with about $2,000 of printing costs brochures/cards plus associated web domain changes.


Thomas Howe said...

Hey Dean -

That's why I suggested it as a personal call solution, not a business call solution. For me, I forward my cell phone to it, so that I keep owning my number, but still get most of the benefits of the solution without any exposure of number lock-in. Granted, I live a life surrounded by phones, so I can afford such luxury. Using Grand Central for more than one person would be totally inappropriate.

But still, Grand Central isn't for everybody or everything. Big market out there - I happen to love what they've done.