The phone is dead #2

"If you hadn't fixed it to the desk it would be pushing up the daisies! It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible! This is an ex-business tool"

I never deleted Darren Stange's post "My deskphone is stupid" from its RSS folder. Our desk phones just got more stupid: until this week a  Microsoft person could reach me by dialing 3080 from their mobile: now they have to dial +44 118 909 3080 (which was the number they needed in their contacts if they were going to call me from abroad). Alas, dialing 07 3080 from a Microsoft deskphone will no longer reach my mobile. The shortcuts were getting harder and harder to maintain. It's not a real hardship for me since I don't memorize extension numbers.

A short spell with a dead smartphone proved to me that I don't need or even want a deskphone if I have a working mobile. Think of 3 features of mobiles that you don't get in a deskphone.

  • Phone book. I don't know my wife's office number, or Eileen's extension number.I dial names, and caller ID shows names. This is why I see so many people ignoring desk phones when making calls - (and the loss of short codes doesn't matter).

  • Hands free. There are dozens of low cost Bluetooth headsets, which work with all but the most basic mobile phones. The headset for my deskphone is proprietary, and frankly I don't know how to get one, but I'll bet it's expensive. Which is easier to use with your PC ?

  • Modes. From my mobile I can send a text message, a photo, or an Instant message. My deskphone ? Voice only.

We pay for dial-up conferencing, because No one can conference 3 parties on a deskphone. The user interface of the mobile makes it easy. And on top of all that are the things you want only in a mobile device -  like the music player and calendar.

The voice mail functions in Exchange 2007's are voice-driven. It's been rolled out in Redmond, but here in the UK we still have an ancient keytone-driven system, so I can't process Voicemail in the car -which is precisely where I want to. Like so much telephony, the functions haven't advanced at in the last dozen years. When I say that some people think "what about VOIP ?"

Voice over IP has delivered nothing to end users. Switching from dedicated phone wiring to IP might save infrastructure costs, but are conference calls easier ? No. Has it made it easier to get the people we want on the phone ? No ! Have the phones or hands free units got cheaper ? No. Camera, text messages ? Forget it.  

My phone calls start with an e-mail or a  phone book, dialed automatically on my mobile, or read from my PC screen and rekeyed into my deskphone. Why we are still using network addresses to make phone calls is beyond me: why not use the same address books we use on our PCs to control our phones. Again folks in Redmond, and a few pilot users here including Darren have  Remote Call Control from Office Communicator. The success of products like Skype and voice in Windows Live messenger show that some people are happy to plug a handset into their PC and ditch the phone. They've also proved that good software doesn't need QoS in the network infrastructure.

Presence information changes your relationship with a phone, because see if someone is available BEFORE you call them, and if not see when they're free or pick e-mail, or IM instead. At Jeff Raikes' UC strategy day we announced a range of phones for Office Communications Server (watch for the name Tanjay) which will be available next year from 3 partners. We were showing pictures of the phones at Teched in Barcelona, and Paul Duffy talked about it briefly in our interview there. And if you're in a Video Watching frame of Mind, several people have mentioned the "Devil wears prada" unified communications Videos, which Mark Deakin has posted to Soapbox.


Comments (4)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Hugh drew this, and Steve Clayton talks about it on his blog . I was going to post something about it

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m tapping this in from the qwerty keypad on the E650 – which may turn out to be a masochistic thing

  3. Anonymous says:

    Maybe I’m getting mellow in my old age, or maybe things in Microsoft IT are changing. There was a time

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