What’s Old is New: Microsoft Phones

According to the New York Times, Microsoft has plans to change the telecommunications world the way it changed the computing world in the 1980’s. And, I suppose, the way it tried and failed to change the telecommunications world the last time it made a newer, better phone- back in the nineties.

The trick seems to be that this time, instead of just linking your phone and your computer, Microsoft is going to link your phone, your computer AND your cell phone.


John Markoff wrote the very thought that came to mind when I saw the headline:

“Microsoft’s challenge is to convince corporate clients that they need to adopt a growing suite of the company’s desktop and server-based software at a time when inexpensive and modular Web services are becoming increasingly popular.”

It’s not only that they are cheap, it’s that most companies already have newish phones and big companies don’t like to change their phone systems because they have to buy and install new equipment and, perhaps more importantly, retrain all of the end users.

The idea of putting another Microsoft (phone, this time) on every desktop will require people who are not risk takers to overcome their risk aversion. This is something that Scoble and I talked about earlier this year, and it is as big a hurdle as ever to making inroads into corporate IT departments.

Microsoft is touting the fact that their system will allow email to be read by the telephone. Why? Everyone and their cat have Blackberries, etc. and can get their mail anywhere. It’s better to go the other way and have voicemail delivered via email- which I have been doing for many years via my firm’s existing telephone system.

Not that there isn’t room for vast improvement in office telecommunications.

Am I the only person who can’t believe that in 2006 we still can’t dial an office phone from within Outlook by clicking a button? That fact blows my mind almost as much as the fact that Hillary Clinton might be our next President.

Give me dialing from Outlook. Not all the other bells and whistles that no one will use.

Alec Saunders talks about Microsoft’s 10-year plan for phones. Is it a 10-year plan or an every 10 year plan? What’s different about this decade that gives Microsoft a better chance of success. Going for the corporate user? Maybe, but that seems like a tougher sell to me than the phone-hungry consumer browsing Circuit City.

As a gadget hound, I am intrigued by the prospect of a nifty new Microsoft phone. The chances of our IT department ever putting one on my desk, however, is between slim and none.

And slim just left the building.