There are reports floating about the tech-blogosphere that Google is going to buy GrandCentral, the mobile startup that gives you a single phone number that can then be directed to any number you choose — or to email, etc; in other words, a single point of mobile contact (of course, this holy grail isn’t available to Canadians, as far as I know). I must admit that the first word that popped into my head when I read the report at TechCrunch was: Dodgeball.
Remember Dodgeball? A very interesting mobile 2.0-type of application — way ahead of its time, in fact — that used geo-location as the foundation of a mobile social network, a little like Plazes.com is trying to do with the Web. Fantastic idea, I thought. Google bought the company in 2005, and there was a huge amount of excitement about Google getting into the mobile software arena at that time. And what came of it? Bupkis, as New Yorkers like to say (incidentally, bupkis is a Yiddish word meaning “beans,” but the phrase means something so small as to be worthless). Dodgeball is still around, but not much has happened with it as far as integrating it with anything.
Google also bought Android around the same time, including Andy Rubin — who founded Danger, the company behind the Sidekick — and nothing much has happened there either, at least as far as anyone knows (the founders of Dodgeball recently left Google and made no secret of their frustration). Could all of these assets — and others such as Reqwireless, the Canadian mobile software company that Google bought last year — become something real? Who knows.
There are still lots of rumours floating around about the secret Google phone project, which is reportedly a personal interest of Larry Page’s, and involves Andy Rubin and a host of others on a Sidekick-like device. Of course, others say that’s all bollocks, and the Google phone amounts to nothing more than bundling deals with other phone makers to install mobile versions of Gmail, etc.