My deskphone is stupid

phoneboxActually my deskphone is probably very clever and I, like most people, just can't be bothered to learn half of what it can do.  The thing that is stupid though, is that it sits on my desk right next to a much more powerful computer - a computer with a screen.  My deskphone has a rubbish screen and it is hard work using it.

What really gets my goat is that when I want to ring somebody, I have to know their phone number.  uh..huh.. I hear you say.  But why do I care what your phone number is?  I just want to talk to you.  I don't care what IP address the network has decided to dish out to my PC today and I certainly don't care about the IP address of say So why should I care what number you have been assigned? 

I know that my computer even has the stupid number somewhere in its steely innards yet does it help me drive the deskphone?  no! I have to look it up in whatever application - outlook in my case, and then retype it into the phone.  I have issues remembering numbers longer than 4 digits so the chances of me typing it into the phone correctly are slim.  And why when I type it wrong, is there no backspace key? 

In fact, why do I need a deskphone at all if the computer is so powerful.  Aren't they just two IP based machines on the same network?  The painful lack of convergence bothers me every time I make a call.

My friend Mark Deakin, bored with my whining on this subject, got me on the trial of the new telephony integration pilot for communicator.  I like this a lot and demoed it at the start of my recent pitch to the MVPs.  I can type someone's name into communicator, see their presence information and if I decide to call them, it displays all the location numbers I have for them.  When I pick one, my deskphone is sent the number and starts to call it on speaker phone.  Then I just press the headset button to transfer it to my headset.  This was so much fun I amused myself for a while by repeatedly phoning Howard across the office and then clicking cancel when he answered it.  It's good because I can do it all from the PC without needing to touch the phone. 

On the inbound, it will route based on my communicator status.  If my machine is on the network and in use, calls to my number route to my desk but if the PC is locked, they route to my mobile - cool!  If I am in "do not disturb" in communicator, it send it to voicemail.

It is still thwarted by incorrect numbers in the GAL though - if someone has (0) in the number that seems to confuse the phone and I have to resort to typing it.  I can type it into communicator though which is a bit easier than pressing the buttons on the phone because I have a backspace button and I can cut and paste.

As Mark says in a recent post on the subject, IP telephony has made great strides in the unification of two networks but for the user all that happened was that an RJ11 got replaced with an RJ45.  It will be down to the software to make this smarter.  I like Mark's analogy that communicator becomes like DNS for people - you type the name and it finds the numbers and decides which one to use. 

All I care about is connecting to the person, not what goes on under the covers to make that happen.  This too is part of the vision for the Microsoft Office system.

Comments (5)

  1. Voice-dialing feature would be better than typing out a name. Something like- I pick-up the phone and I just speak "Darren" and the phone instantly connects me to you would be even good.

  2. Tim Long says:

    Speaking as someone who’s designed telephone firmware and software for almost 20 years (if you are at the Reading campus and use the Nortel ‘Orion’ phones, then some of my firmware is in your phone), I definitely think you’ve put your finger on something there. Microsoft can learn something about backward compatibility from the telephone industry! Every new POTS telephone carries about 150 years of baggage. I was hoping that VOIP systems would release telephones from all that baggage, but sadly most VOIP designers seem to lack the necessary imagination. I think Cisco has nearly got it right with their IP phones.

    Anyway, I recently blogged about how to enter telephone numbers for best all-round compatibility:

  3. dstrange says:

    Goodness me Tim, you really are passionate about that leading zero aren’t you?  nice post by the way – cheers, Darren

  4. Simona says:

    You wanna steer clear of that Mark Deakin character 😉

  5. Reading accountingweb today, there is a rant about blackberry’s – basically documenting all the tax issues

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