A few years ago, a little startup called Grand Central sought to allow people to have one number that they can set up in order to not only protect their real phone number, but have one number that could ring more than one to be sure that the person gets the call. It was such a smash hit that Google bought them in 2007. Now called Google Voice, it integrates voice mail with the rest of Google's tools.
I got my Grand Central phone number about two years ago, but I didn't really use it much. At the time, I was pretty much attached to my cell phone and everyone knew how to get a hold of me almost immediately. I tinkered with it a bit now and then for about a week and forgot about it.
When I heard that Google bought Grand Central, I was interested in it again since the integration with Google's tools was supposed to be seamless. Google started sending out invites to Google Voice to former Grand Central users, and I wound up getting one. The first thing I did was migrate it to my new Gmail account; I no longer use the address I set up my Grand Central account with. While I was setting that up, a friend of mine IM'd me to tell me that you can request a string to search for to have as your new Google Voice number. Surely enough, I got the string I wanted with my associated cell phone number, but the area code was from California. I didn't really care much since everything is practically global nowadays.
One of the main features of Google Voice is to ring one or more phones by using one phone number, so I set up Google Voice to call my Palm Pre first. When someone calls, they're prompted to say who they are, and when I get the call, a recorded female voice asks if I "want to take a call from"....and the digital recording of the person's name is played back. I can then answer the call, send them to voice mail, or ignore it.
In and of itself, that doesn't really do much as far as the Pre is concerned since it treats the Pre like any other phone, but if a person leaves you a message, you get a Gmail notice on your Pre. The great part about it is that Google Voice will attempt to transcribe the voice message so that you don't have to listen to the whole message. I would suggest that you do because I sent three voice mail messages and each one had some kind of transcribing problem. There's also a "Play Message" link that allows you to listen to the original voice mail, but on the Palm Pre it doesn't work for some reason.
I think that using Google Voice is a great way to integrate voice mail with the internet. The transcribing alone is probably enough to make anyone want to use it, despite how it can be flawed at times. I also wish that the Pre would be able to play the original voice mail properly. I'll have to see what format the audio file is in.