,November4,1998WhatisMicrosoftdoing,gettingintothephonebusiness?

LiketheMicrosoftCordlessPhoneSystemitself,thequestioncanbeansweredmorethanoneway。

ThemostdramaticistotakealookattheBurnsfamilyatesthouseholdforMicrosoftsnewPC-enhanced900MHzcordlessphone。

TheBurnsesareatypical90sclan。

Bothparents,ShannonandCharlie,workfull-timeasconsultants,andevenwhenextendedassignmentspullthemawayfromthehomeoffice,theyoftenreceivebusinesscallsathome。

TheirfourkidsSean,8;Brett,12;Trevor;13,andJamie,15areenrolledatthreedifferentschoolsandeachplaysmultiplesportsyear-round。

Throwinmembershipsinavarietyofsocialorganizations,professionalsocietiesandclubs,andyougetthepicture:jammedfamilycalendar,high-mileageJeepCherokee,andaconstantlyringingphone。

Thischaosbecameabitmoremanageableafter8-year-oldWindowswhizSeaninstalledtheMicrosoftCordlessPhoneSysteminthekitchenandinstalleditscordless-communicationsmoduleandCallManagersoftwareupstairsonthefamilysPC。

Familymembersquicklysetupindividualvoicemailboxesandrecordedcustomoutgoinggreetings。

ShannonandCharliecreatedajointmailboxforfamilycalls,withacheerfulgreetingfromSean,butaddedseparatemailboxeswithmorebuttoned-downmessagesforbusinessuse。

Tofurtherstreamlineprofessionalcalls,ShannonandCharliefedCallManagertheirclientsphonenumbersand,usingtheCallerIDservicefromtheirtelephonecompany,taggedthemashighpriority。

Thatway,duringdinnertheoasisofcalmineachhecticdaythephonesDoNotDisturbfeatureallowsonlyurgentbusinesscallstoringthrough。

Lower-prioritycallsareroutedstraighttovoicemail,unlesstheyrefromoneofthetelemarketingfirmsthefamilyhasblockedaltogether。

TheCordlessPhoneSystemisntallbusiness,however。

TheBurnskidstookadvantageofcallrecognitiontoo,justforfun:WhenSeanssoccercoachphones,theCordlessPhoneSystemusesitscall-announcefeaturetoplayapre-recordeddeclaration:CoachJohnsoniscalling。

ThekidsalsoprogrammedthephonesVoiceCommandcapabilitiestorecognizetheirfriendsnames。

WhenTrevortellsthephonetoCallReid,itdoes。

AlthoughIhaveaslightaccent,thephonestillrecognizesmycommand,hesaid。

Itssogreat。

SeanisequallyenthusiasticabouttheVoiceCommandfeature。

Idonthavetoremembersomanyphonenumbersanymore!

hesaid。

OneofShannonsfavoritephonefeaturesisitscalllog,whichtracksthetimeanddurationofeverycall。

SheandCharlieusethelogtokeeptrackofbusinesscalls,butitalsocomesinhandyforotherpurposes:itsadeadgiveawaytofurtivephoneuseduringhomeworktime。

Thekidsarentsocrazyaboutthatfeature,buttheylovethephonesabilitytotransfercallstotheirparentsvoicemailboxes。

Theyspendlesstimejottingdownmessagesthatway,andShannonandCharliespendlesstimetrackingdownstraynotes。

Icanrelyonthisnewphonetocatchimportantcallsmuchmorethanamessagewrittenbyoneofthekidsonanote,saidCharlie。

Thekidsappreciatetheprivacyofpersonalmailboxesaswell。

Siblingteasingaboutoverheardmessageswasknowntohappenbeforethenewphonearrived。

MyfriendscanhavefunleavingmeamessagebecausetheyknowIhavemyownmailbox。

TheyknowImtheonlyonewhowillhearthemessage,Trevorsaid。

TheMoreProsaicAnswer

AnotherwayofansweringthequestionaboutwhyMicrosofthasintroducedaphonerequiresturningbacktheclockacoupleofyears。

PhonecompaniesCallerIDserviceshadjustbeguntotakeoff,andMicrosoftengineerswereponderingwaysPCuserscouldmakebetteruseofthatinformationtocontrolandmanagecalls。

Meanwhile,anumberofmanufacturershadbegunincludinganswering-machinesoftwarewithmultiplemailboxesandcustomoutgoinggreetingsonmodem-equippedhomePCs。

Microsoftitselfbrieflyproduceditsownansweringmachinesoftware,whichwassoldonlywithPCs。

AfusionoftelephonysoftwarewithCallerIDdataofferedintriguingpossibilities,andMicrosoftbegangauginginterestthroughitsuser-testingprogram。

Microsoftlearnedthat,whilemanyownerstookthetimetosetuptheirPCansweringmachines,theysoonabandonedthemforaverysimplereason。

CheckingandretrievingmessagesrequiredthemtogototheirPCs,whichwerealmostneverinaspotconvenienttoplaceanansweringmachine。

(Thekitchen,wheretheBurnsfamilyputitsMicrosoftCordlessPhoneSystem,wastheanswering-machinespotmostuserspreferred。

)ConsumerstoldMicrosofttheywereopentohavingPC-enabledcall-handlingenhancements,buttheydidntwanttogiveuptheput-it-anywhereconvenienceoftraditionalphonesoransweringmachines。

Microsoftsengineersconcludedthattheircall-handlingsoftwareshouldworkwithacordlessphonethatcouldcommunicatewiththePCfromanylocationinthehouse。

EngineersexperimentedwithavarietyofapproachesthatwouldhavelinkedthePCtooff-the-shelfcordlessphones,butallprovedtooinflexibleorcumbersome。

ToachievethemixofVoiceCommand,CallerIDenhancements,custommessagingandconveniencetheywantedMicrosoftconcludeditmustbuilditsownphone。

Theresult:afterextensiveresearchintoproductdesignandfeatures,theMicrosoftCordlessPhoneSystemisfirstandforemostagreatcordlessphone,butonethattakesadvantageofthePCsprocessingpowertoprovideenhancementssuchasVoiceCommand,CallAnnounce,customgreetingsandcall-logging。

Togobacktotheoriginalreasonsfordevelopingthephone,itsarealhelptobusyfamilies。

JustaskShannonBurns: