That Pesky Convergence Stuff

“One thing we’ll be talking a fair bit about today is the relationship between the PC and the phone. That’s something that will be changing. When you get value added on your PC without having to switch the phone that you use simply by having the PC be aware of what’s going on, that integration, we think, is a very critical one and one that’s influencing the PC hardware.” —Bill Gates at WinHEC 2003

Auntie was looking over the WinHEC transcripts, and that prediction jumped out. What? Is Microsoft bringing up the notion of computer-telephone integration again? TAPI, the Telephony API, was introduced back in 1993. At the time, we were told to look forward to computers with integrated telephone handsets and exciting application possibilities, such as using caller ID information to automatically bring up contact information on a screen when the phone rings.

A full decade later, at Microsoft’s premier hardware event, we’re told to look forward to, well, the same thing. To be fair, there are other gosh-wow pieces to this year’s model, such as seamless transferring of calls between connected devices, automatic integration of phone data with Instant Messenger sessions, and integrated voice mail. But, at the end of the day, it’s still just basically sticking the computer and the telephone together.

At the same time, one has to admire Microsoft’s persistence—to the point that one wonders about its motives. It’s easy to imagine a planning meeting in a latte-filled room somewhere on the Microsoft campus. Now that every man, woman, child and dog who can afford a PC has one, operating system sales are inevitably slowing down. But what if Microsoft owned the OS market for telephones? Now there’s a growth opportunity! I’m not saying it’s true, but this scenario would certainly explain the continued attempt of the Redmond folks to drum up interest in Computer Telephony Integration, as well as their pursuit of the SmartPhone market (despite the fact that, so far, their entry in that market looks like an also-ran).

Regardless of the cheerleading at WinHEC, I’m not ready to start barking up this particular tree. Are you? Let’s think about some typical usage scenarios. First, today’s telephone at Chez Auntie:

The phone rings. It’s the auto repair guy, and we chat for a bit about the Hummer. I hang up and dial the grocery store to see if they have fresh kiwis in stock. While I’m on the phone, the call-waiting signal comes on, and I pop over for a brief chat with Fabio. The phone rings a bit later, but personal matters prevent me from answering it. The machine picks up, and I hear my editor politely inquiring as to the whereabouts of this very column. I pretend I’m not home.

Now, fast-forward to the fabulous Windows-converged future:

The phone rings. It’s the auto repair guy. After his contact information shows up on the screen, pop-up ads for auto refinancing and the new Expedition hurl themselves at me. I hang up and tell my computer to dial the grocery store. It mishears the voice command and dials information for Grover City, California, where the operator knows nothing about kiwi fruit. While I’m trying to straighten out that issue, the call waiting light comes on. I try to pop over to the other line, but the computer blue screens and I lose both calls. The phone rings a bit later, and my screen says it’s my editor. I try to pretend I’m not home, but she sees my Instant Messenger status and sends me an IM that says, “Pick up the darned phone!”

For most of us, the telephone is a device that does one thing and does it well. It never needs rebooting, it doesn’t receive intrusive ads while a call is in progress, and it doesn’t need to have its software reinstalled every six months. Until my computer can say the same, I’ll leave convergence to someone else.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Aug 19, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Lighten up everyone. This magazine is filled with detached, humorless, but usually informative, articles and columns. If you don't like her humor then don't read the column.

Mon, Jul 14, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I agree with the negative reviews. Em C. Pea's columns as a whole are horseshit.

Mon, Jul 7, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Quite right -- I had enough trouble convincing my phone company that I did not need an answering service added to my phone bill -- all I want is an instrument that places calls, not another (and more expensive) computer in my hallway.

Wed, Jul 2, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I find the column quite entertaining. No wonder those MCSE's with no sense of humor don't like her. Their fat heads are so far up their butts they can't see the forest for their own trees. (Pun intended)It's amazing how they get them up there so far.

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 reacko paris

what happened to the MS fridge , you know whit the flat scr and wireless internet (like my fidge moves a lot ......)

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

The truth of the matter is Emma is really George W. Bush practicing for his next gig! TeeHee!

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

(Only one comment so far on the actual column in question!?) I find the humor quirky but the only "must read" part of the magazine. I find the topics relevant since I don't keep good track of the issues du jour; this would be the only way that I hear about this recent press release (or whatever its called), for example. There is plenty of "hard-core" information articles. The editors can "justify the continued existence of her column" because people read it. Besides, what does this have to do with the telephone-computer connection?

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I agree with the one-star reviewers. She offers nothing of value - real or imagined. Please hire a columnist that will provide us with information that will both inform and illuminate.

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I could live with Em C. Pea if her humor was funny enough to compensate for her poor writing or if her writing was well-written enough to compensate for her not actually being funny but she really isn't much of a writer and she sure as hell isn't funny so I would like to know how the editors can justify the continued existence of her column.

Tue, Jul 1, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Actually, the phrase "insipid tripe" when used in this context should be enclosed within quotations and the word you meant to use is spelled "advice". If you feel this "advice" was beneficial, please click the "PayPal" button below to show your appreciation. Thanks!

Mon, Jun 30, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

What's wrong with a different, and maybe tongue-in-cheek perspective? I'm a Convergernce Engineer and I agree with "Auntie". Lighten up, folks!

Mon, Jun 30, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Tell the twerp with the insipid tripe to lighten up. It doesn't need quotation marks and Em C. Pea doesn't need his advise.

Sat, Jun 28, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

She's not nearly as humorous as she would like to think she is and worst of all, she adds literally nothing to the advancement of one's knowledge. If you're going to write what amounts to a humor column, it would help to actually be funny and quite franky, she's not. Her column is by far the worst aspect of both the magazine and web-site.

Fri, Jun 27, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I don't know what you people complain about Em C. Pea is great!

Fri, Jun 27, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

My point exactly! No need to make things more complicated.

Fri, Jun 27, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Even with Neilson and Crandall gone, Em C. Pea is still the worst writer in the magazine. Labeling her work as "insipid tripe" is being overly charitable.

Thu, Jun 26, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I'm still miffed about that "passing the exam the first time is bad" column...

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