Google Voice ramps up but no word yet on number portability

Google begins inviting users to try Google Voice

Google is a sneeze away from launching its anticipated Google Voice service beyond the customers it inherited when it acquired GrandCentral in 2007. Invitations are being sent to users who requested them starting today, the Official Google Blog announced. But the one big question on everyone's mind is when will it offer number portability? No word yet on that.

Google Voice is a service that allows you to link all of your phones to a single number, even offering voicemail integrated with e-mail. Best of all, its free. (See video below.) Those lucky enough to be using Google voice already rave about it, although it still has one limitation -- you can only use it to send incoming calls from Google Voice to other numbers. You can't yet take your existing number and move it to Google Voice. So to use it today, you need change your phone number. Google recently snagged 1 million new phone numbers from its provider, Level 3 in anticipation of rolling out these invites today. So, the question is, with invites rolling, when with number portability kick in? The Google Voice feature page doesn't name portability as an option yet.

But, reports TechCrunch, Google is working on it and will be offering number portability when the service goes live in a bigger way later this year. However, the features page does an amazing, perhaps all, of the features you would expect for a paid VoiP service like tons of call management options. Plus it offers voice to text transcription for voicemail and voicemail screening -- a feature that was lost when answering machines of ages past were replaced by voicemail. (See video.)

The issue of number portability aside, the service is a winner, says reviewer jkOnTheRun

"Now that I have a second mobile line but no landline, I use Google Voice to manage my incoming calls. For folks who have my Google Voice number, I have it set to ring both my iPhone and Pre. ... Google Voice is also capable of handling incoming text messages and voicemails, both of which can be transcribed for you. I hit up my Google Voice account on the web using my iPhone yesterday and was able to read the most recent voicemail messages, which were transcribed with great accuracy."

Still not convinced? Take a peek at this video that offers a quick overview on Google Voice. We at Google Subnet are eagerly awaiting our invite.

Do you think there is any business use case for Google Voice, or would you peg it as strictly a consumer technology?

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