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Google buys voicemail firm for $50m

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Google has acquired GrandCentral Communications, a California-based provider of web-based communications solutions.

GrandCentral's service allows people to use a single phone number and voice mailbox for all of their phones. Google's product manager Wesley Chan made the announcement Tuesday on the company's official blog. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"We think GrandCentral's technology fits well into Google's efforts to provide services that enhance the collaborative exchange of information between our users," said Chan. "We're really excited to welcome the GrandCentral team to Google," he added.

GrandCentral was founded two years ago by Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet, former senior executives at VoIP firm DialPad Communications, which was itself acquired by Google's rival, Yahoo!, in 2005.

In a statement posted on the company's website, the founders said: "Being part of Google will help us make our vision of improved voice communications one step closer to reality and bring innovative communications services to millions of users around the world." They added that there were no other specific product plans at this time.

The idea for the GrandCentral service was borne out of Walker's frustration upon landing at a local airport and realising he needed to check three voicemail mail boxes - one for his mobile phone, another for work and one for his BlackBerry phone.

GrandCentral has been holding public tests of its service for several months. Current users will continue to have uninterrupted service, Google said. A limited number of invitations to receive GrandCentral unified numbers will be available for users who sign up at www.grandcentral.com, it added.

Internet-based phone services are a major growth area right now. eBay-owned Skype, a pioneer in the internet phone market, has signed up more than 200 million users for its free or low-cost phone services globally. Newer names in the field include venture-backed firms Jajah, Jangl, Jaxtr and Rebtel, which together have signed up millions of users in the past year.

© 2007 ENN

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