GrandCentral is a wonderful free service for handling phone calls. When you sign up, you pick a new phone number and do a few minutes of easy setup. Then when someone calls that number, all of your phones ring simultaneously and you can answer any of them.

I’ve relied on GrandCentral for more than a year. When you call me, my office phone and my cell phone ring. I can answer either one and transfer calls between them with a single push of a button. A web-based utility allows calls to be re-routed on the fly – you can literally make your phone calls ring at your parents’ house when you arrive and turn off the forwarding when you leave. Call handling can be chosen based on time of day, or by groups, or by individual decisions for different names in your address book. Here’s what I wrote about GrandCentral last year.

It’s great – you should try it!

Except you can’t sign up for it.

Google acquired GrandCentral in July 2007 and immediately stopped signing up new members. Existing members could invite new users for a few more months but no one has been added since the beginning of this year.

There is dead silence about what to expect. It’s been months since there have been any meaningful changes on the web site or blog posts by anyone knowledgeable. Nobody from GrandCentral participates on the support forum. No one knows if a new version will be rolled out with even more wonderful features – or if the plug will be pulled on short notice.

It’s not the only time this has happened to a company purchased by Google. This article about the “Google black hole” lists several more companies with promising technology that were acquired by Google only to disappear from sight, with the founders and employees gradually shifted away into other projects.

Google’s image is starting to tarnish – its non-search products are always on the verge of greatness but never seem to become great. I hope GrandCentral doesn’t die! If my phone number changes, it’s a bad sign for some good technology.

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