I like to be a bit of a trendspotter, accumulating meaningless bits of information, and then bringing them together when, occassionally, something “clicks”. So seeing Microsoft’s IP PBX offering set off one of those alarm bells in my head.
Regular readers will know that I am one of those PDA freaks, of the Treo subvariety. It is a fantastic, functional, device that does many things I need whenever, wherever. However, being a complex animal, it does reboot every now and then (sometimes every day). I take the good with the bad, and on balance, it’s great.
Speaking to people who use i-mates, Sony Ericsson M-series, or the new Nokia N-series, I hear similar feedback. These things do crash on a regular basis.
For someone used to a regular mobile phone that is just a phone, and always works, day in, day out, this is a major culture shock. We have always perceived the telephone as a “hardware” device that offers a high degree of availability. However, as these devices become more clever and complex, they have a greater dependence on a larger operating system, software (some of it third-party), and intrinsic to that is a reduction in their reliability.
Blackberry did it right. They chose to limit the functionality to phone and e-mail, and do those really well. So those devices are very popular, and very reliable.
As the battle for the personal device rages on, more toys will come out trying to do more and more. Some of them might even allow you to make phone calls. It is reminiscent of the early days of digital watches (yes, I am that old), where they offered a myriad of stopwatches, timers, and other functions.
Now, when Microsoft puts up their hand as a provider of phone systems, I am afraid. Very afraid. Business telephone systems must work, keep working, and never stop working. Like the trusty NEC system that we still use at my office and has been running straight for a few years with nary a hiccup. Microsoft just don’t have that sort of inherent reliability in their systems. Anyone can do integration between a phone system and the Office suite – you don’t need a phone system from the same vendor.
This, together with some of my PDA examples, is a case of vendors try be everything to everyone, and that is impossible.
Would you buy a phone system from Microsoft?