Google Voice, the new version of the GrandCentral technology Google acquired in July 2007, has the potential to make the search giant a middleman in an important part of people's lives, telephone communications. With the service, people can pick a new phone number from Google Voice; when others call it, Google can ring all the actual phones a person uses and handle voice mail.
The old version could let people centralize telephone services, screen their calls, and listen to voice mail over the Web. But the new version offers several significant new features, though. Google now uses its speech-to-text technology to transcribe voice mail, making it possible to search for particular words. Gmail's contacts now is used to instruct Google Voice how to treat various callers. And Google Voice now can send and receive SMS text messages and set up conference calls.