By now you've probably heard about Google Voice -- the old GrandCentral communications service given that golden Google touch -- and some of you are right in step behind David Pogue. (Hint: He's the one waving a flag with a big G on it.) While Pogue's got a good point about the headaches of juggling multiple numbers at multiple (or mobile) locations -- and I really like the idea of having multiple voice-mail greetings for multiple callers ever since my last voice-mail greeting both confused and scared my grandmother -- I find myself more in line with Preston Gralla's concerns about privacy.
The announcement of Google Voice had me asking a million questions, from "Will it recognize my Australian friend's accent?" to "How hard will it be to get off the grid now? Will it make it easier for cheaters to cheat, for con-men to swindle, for kids to stay out past curfew? Will printed phone conversations become admissible as evidence? Do you really want a hard copy of that drunk dial? And is being able to switch from a landline to a cell phone and back again worth it?"
Pogue writes, "No matter where you were, your uni-number found you," and I find myself profoundly uncomfortable. What about this one: "No human effort is involved"? As someone who has worked admin and assistant positions, hearing about this given the current economy makes me worry about the potential for increased job loss. While the idea of having one number to rule them all initially seems futuristic and efficient, it also gives me that uh-oh feeling.
Forums, for the most part, did not share my concern. Most readers, like Zack Stern, were clamoring for added services such as voice recognition or call transcription; some had hopes that consolidating services will result in more affordable bills; others were concerned about the legality of recording conversations across state lines, and some pointed out that similar services already exist. A few GrandCentral users were breathing sighs of relief that Google was finally doing something with the service, and a few other users were having log-in difficulties.
Wired is concerned about what Google is doing to the market, and Cnet has a hands-on examination that calls it "potentially useful." Shankland calls the transcription option both compelling and imperfect. Reading the transcript of his test run was revealing as the service made several humorous mistakes (Google has said it is working on improving the accuracy) and the integration had some rough edges. Don't get me wrong -- it's likely that I'll jump onboard when Google Voice becomes available. I just might wait a few weeks to make sure it doesn't change everyone into pod people first.