Google bought Grand Central and rebranded it Google Voice, now Apple has rejected Google Voice for the iPhone and the FCC is looking into it. Based on the responses Apple had given the FCC, it looks like they might be afraid Google is taking over the iPhone and Google Voice is a big piece of that. So what if Apple had bought Grand Central instead? Or what if that new world-class data center Apple is building will be home to a Google Voice competitor? (Tip of the theoretical hat to Derek in our comments, who delightfully calls such a thing iVoice).
GrandCentral (not to be confused with Apple's upcoming multicore processor handler, Grand Central Dispatch) was an innovative service that gave users a new phone number that could replace any number of other and assorted numbers (one line to ring them all), along with SMS, transcribed voice mail, conference calling, call switching, call screening, etc. It was purchased by Google in 2007 for $95 million, and relaunched in 2009 as Google Voice.
If Apple had bought it instead, they would of course now be spared the headaches surrounding the above mentioned rejection and investigation. But they'd also have a fairly compelling set of services to roll up into the iPhone...
The original iPhone 2G saw Apple neatly remove carriers from a large portion of the smartphone experience by handling the selling and activation themselves, and not allowing any so-called carrier crapware (or even physical branding) onto the iPhone.
iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 saw the removal of carrier application portals with the introduction of an Apple-controlled App Store (though that inarguably has crapware all it's own, users don't have to fight with it being pre-installed and/or baked in).
At the same time, the original iPod touch went from being a crippled, no external speaker, no external volume control iPhone, to a fairly good non-phone iPhone. In a couple of weeks, Apple is widely expected to ship an iPod touch with a camera and perhaps microphone as well.
That makes it a potential VoIP monster.
Of course, GrandCentral/Google Voice doesn't use VoIP (despite Apple's weak-tea response that they're still investigating it). That doesn't mean it couldn't (as in never will).
An iPhone -- or iPod touch -- with "iVoice" phone, sms, voice mail, etc. behind it...? That removes the carrier further still (dumb pipe chants, if you will), and the iPod touch as a VoIP monster? Heh. It becomes the Balrog.