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Google Voice takes a step toward launch

Google begins fulfilling people's requests to join Google Voice, its service for unifying multiple phone numbers and simplifying voice mail, as it preps for its public launch.

Google hasn't yet launched Google Voice publicly, but it did take a step in that direction on Thursday by starting to extend invitations to those who signed up on a waiting list for the Net-augmented telephone service.

Google Voice, based on technology from a start-up called GrandCentral that Google acquired in 2007, offers users a new phone number that can simplify reaching that user.

When a person calls the Google Voice number, the user's home, work, and mobile phones all can ring simultaneously. The user can set up the service so specific phones ring for different callers or groups of callers, or so some callers go straight to voice mail. Google transcribes voice mails after they're left, too, e-mailing it to the Google Voice user or letting them read and listen to the message through a Gmail-like interface.

Google Voice transcribes voice mails and lets people read or listen to them through a Gmail-like interface.
Google Voice transcribes voice mails, and lets people read or listen to them through a Gmail-like interface. Google

"We are happy to share that Google Voice is beginning to open up beyond former GrandCentral users. If you requested an invitation on the Google Voice site or previously on GrandCentral, keep your eye out for an invite e-mail," Google said in a blog post.

When Google started showing Google Voice in March, it said it would launch the free service "in a number of weeks." Those who'd used the beta test version of the Grand Central service have been able to upgrade to Google Voice.

Google's blog shows how invitees can sign up for the process, including picking a new phone number. However, according to a TechCrunch report, Google plans to let people use existing cell phone numbers for the service so they wouldn't have to give out a new one.

Google hasn't described a direct way to make money from Google Voice, though it does charge for international calls through the service and doesn't rule out the possibility of advertisements in the future.