Up till now, the Web has lacked one critical feature needed to deliver targeted information to users—Identity (we've previously discussed the critical importance of identity in managing and rendering services). While modern Search mines the surf habits of digital natives to symbiotically render more intelligent and relevant information, a majority of these searches aren’t tied to identified individuals, but rather an abstract user-input collective (unless of course you're logged into iGoogle). The Telecom world on the other hand understands Identity and Identity Management very well by associating every user transaction with a unique ID phone number—they just don’t exploit it beyond direct billing purposes to deliver targeted services. The data typically drops on the floor at check-out time - swept away into dust bins.
Perhaps Google’s acquisition of GrandCentral captures the dirt, and gives the Web giant an identity management capability that not only allows users to centrally manage phone calls and voice mail from different sources, but more importantly, aggregates multiple personal identities (home, work, and mobile phones) into one consolidated ID alias rivaling big-Telecom identity management capabilities. But unlike big Telecom, expect Google to leverage the ID data beyond billing purposes.
GrandCentral offers many features that complement the phone services you already use. If you have multiple phone numbers (e.g., home, work, cell), you get one phone number that you can set to ring all, some, or none of your phones, based on who's calling. This way, your phone number is tied to you, and not your location or job. The service also gives you one central voice mailbox. You can listen to your voicemails online or from any phone, forward them to anybody, add the caller to your address book, block a caller as spam, and a lot more. You can even listen in on voicemail messages from your phone while they are being recorded, or switch a call from your cell phone to your desk phone and back again. All in all, you'll have a lot more control over your phones.
While I expect users to fall in love the Google GrandCentral service and enjoy the sense of empowerment, assume this will also be used as a data collection tool that gathers more information about your identity, to in turn deliver you more targeted information, to in turn attract more premium advertisers, who in turn hope to reach your wallet. Oh, and Location? Of course. Home and work phones are tied to IP location supported by GrandCentral today. What about context for mobile identity?