Google is building buzz for its new call management system by offering a preview to one communicationally challenged demographic: the military.
Starting Aug. 4, anyone with a valid .mil e-mail address can sign up for Google Voice and start using the service within a day.
Voice, which is still in development, has been available to the public for months, but civilians who register online normally have to wait three to four weeks to get the go-ahead from Google.
The service could be particularly useful for military personnel who are deploying or moving to a new duty station, said Army Sgt. Dale Sweetnam, a public affairs officer working at Google through the Training in Industries program.
In a nutshell, Google Voice does for oral communication what Web-based e-mail does for written communication: It connects a phone number directly to a person instead of a particular device or a particular location. Users can set that number to ring on their home phone, cell phone or work phone — or any combination thereof — depending on who is calling, and they can check their voicemail on the Internet.
Sweetnam said the voicemail feature would have boosted morale when he was in Iraq from November 2007 to December 2008.
He usually called home at night, trying to catch his family at the start of their day.
"If I missed them, I missed them for the whole day," Sweetnam said, because there was no way for them to call back.
Now family members will be able to leave messages at the Google Voice number for their wives and husbands, dads and daughters, who can go online to find "audio care packages" from the voices they miss most.