Google Voice Launching This Week? Don't Count On It

Psst...have you heard? Google Voice, the company's long-in-the-works phone revolutionizer, is finally set to launch publicly today! The rumor's been the buzz of tech blogs and Twitter talk all day. It's all very exciting, too, except for one teensy little problem: It's not true.

At least, that's what Google Voice Product Manager Craig Walker is saying via his own Twitter stream. But hey, what does he know?

Google Voice: Roots of a Rumor

The Google Voice launch rumor seems to have started with a podcast posted on cnet.com Wednesday afternoon. In the program, CNET Editor Natali Del Conte -- also a correspondent for "The CBS Early Show" and WCBS, according to her personal Web page -- answered a caller's question about the status of the Google Voice service.

"It's supposed to launch tomorrow," Del Conte said. "I'm not sure if that's public information or not -- I didn't sign any NDA (non-disclosure agreement)," she added.

Del Conte went on to explain that she'd received an e-mail from "[her] contact at Google" telling her the launch date was set for June 18.

The Google Voice Truth

The statement shot across the Internet in no time. One sharp Twitter user, though, had the wise idea to go straight to a source who'd have indisputable information.

"Is this true?" the user sent in a tweet to Walker, the aforementioned Google Voice guru, referencing a link to Del Conte's remarks.

"No, this is not," Walker replied. "Sorry to disappoint. We're cranking 24/7 to get there, but not tomorrow for sure."

Google's GrandCentral Story

So what in the world is Google doing behind-the-scenes with Google Voice? No one really knows -- at least, not anyone who's saying. Google bought the technology from GrandCentral in July of 2007, then proceeded to keep quiet about it for quite a while. Just this past March, Google broke its silence and announced it was rebranding GrandCentral as Google Voice -- and, it said, preparing to publicly pull back the curtain.

If you're not familiar with this whole GrandCentral/Google Voice thing, the service is a pretty powerful utility that lets you unite all of your phone numbers into a single line. Anyone can dial that one number, and -- based on your custom settings -- be routed appropriately to the device of your choice, whether that be your cell phone, home phone, office phone, or whatever. It also includes a central voicemail system that's accessible on the Web, along with a host of other cool features such as the ability to listen live as callers leave a message, then decide whether you want to take the call.

Lucky folks who were already on-board with GrandCentral pre-acquisition have been able to access the system, but the rest of us -- well, we've been stuck waiting. Despite Google's ongoing acceptance of beta applications, it doesn't seem many (if any) additional customers have been allowed inside the gates.

A Final Thought

One final thought regarding the Google Voice launch rumor: CNET's Del Conte, to be fair, did qualify her statements. After saying the service would launch on the 18th, she went on to add that that was assuming Google stuck to the plans she'd been given. "If not," she said, it should occur "very, very soon."

Amid all the irritation by excited and understandably let-down users, Del Conte does deserve some credit for that footnote. Unlike the authoritative tone typically taken by her alma mater in its rumor-reporting (hint: it's a blog that rhymes with "NeckMunch"), she did at least provide some straight-forward perspective as to the uncertainty of her information.

Speaking of which, shouldn't that Google-Twitter acquisition be wrapping up any day now? Maybe that's what's causing all the Google Voice delays.

Connect with JR Raphael on Twitter (@jr_raphael) or via his Web site, jrstart.com.

This story, "Google Voice Launching This Week? Don't Count On It" was originally published by PCWorld.

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