back to article Gates predicts death of the office phone

Bill Gates has been banging the communications convergence and new media drum for business leaders, telling chief executives the PC is the phone of the future. Opening his company's annual CEO Summit at the Redmond, Washington, campus Gates envisioned the death of the desktop phone, as PCs take on phone-like functionality and …

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Gates still believes in Tablet PCs

Gates:"The Tablet takes cutting-edge PC technology and makes it available wherever you want it, which is why I'm already using a Tablet as my everyday computer. It's a PC that is virtually without limits -- and within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America." 11/2001

"The faith is strong in you Gatewalker.. err Gatekeeper!"

I'll chuckle again.. in 5 years when my phone is still not my PC or vice versa.

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But, I like only being contacted if I'm sat at my desk!

I like having my office phone on my desk. Because, then I can walk away from my desk, and leave the ringing phone for someone else to worry about.

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Um...

So yeah, when's the paperless office coming in? Before or after the phone leaves?

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Our favourite clairvoyant

"Gates predicts death of the office phone"

Yeah. Right. Like he predicts that Vista will prove "dramatically more secure than any other operating system released". Like he predicts that soon schoolkids will be using his pet idea, the tablet, instead of books. Like he predicted no more spam by 2006 and the 'death of the password'.

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Sure, Bill, sure.

Wasn't it Bill Gates who said such brilliant things as "No one will ever need more than 640K RAM," (I was using 1 meg at the time and upgraded to 4 megs within a year - and not in an MS OS, either, so the entire RAM space was available to my apps), and "O@/2 is the operating system of the Nineties?"

You'll forgive me if I find his prognostications to be somewhat less trustworthy than a chocolate teapot.

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Tom
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Hello.....

...can you hear me now?

Sorry, my windows phone just crashed and it will take a minute to reboot. Can you wait.

I don't think so!

The basic problem is that while the normal office telephone approaches 100% reliability (how often has your office phone been down this year?), a windows PC hardly comes close. Besides, I'd like to save some $$$ by turning off the beast every once in a while.

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It'll never happen

Unless your business is based primarily on your phones, a business just doesn't see the phone system as something that needs to be feature rich, it just needs to work.

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Give it up already

Isn't this the same Bill Gates who said "Two years from now, spam will be solved" at the World Economic Forum on 26 Jan 2004?

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How many phones can fit on the head of a pin

I don't foresee this happening anytime soon, at least not in the US.

Why? Simple: redundancy.

I worked in the telecommunications dept of a multinational corporation, specifically working with the branches that are stateside. They had between 100 and 120 branches of varying sizes, some of which were little sales offices, some ranging up to a couple hundred lines into the single building. What's the one thing they had in common? Every single branch has a copper main number. Drove the carriers nuts. "Won't you consolidate your main line into a T1? It's cheaper and easier to manage that way for both of us!" Never happened, and I seriously doubt it will happen anytime in the next 20 years.

The reason for that is that, in the event of, say, a power outage, some informed person with a backup plan document can plug their analog phone into the copper line, and boom, you can talk to wherever is needed. Those T1 lines? Good luck with keeping those up, especially after your UPS dies. Are you going to honestly tell me that my computer can give me the same sort of functionality as an old analog, 4 wire phone?

I mean, hell, when I was working there, I had three different phones on my desk, each with a valid specific purpose. Almost everyone in the department had 3, one of which was always a copper line.

A second note: Cost. How many big companies are going to shell out for the hardware for setting all of this up, both on the user side and back end? Hell, of those ~100 branches, about 30 were still running Executone phone systems. Reliable, maybe, but the end range for the copyright date you see when you log in on those systems is 1992. Most large companies are under the impression of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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Anonymous Coward

Batphone to the rescue!

One thing we *always* keep around in the phone room is a single

Bat Phone, an old black analog set that works even when nothing

else is running. It's DTMF, but that's its only concession to the last

decades of the 20th century. Regardless of what high-tech comms

gear we might run, we're still reliant on the crude technology of

the early Bell System when it's crunch time.

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Phone?

I always make sure to have my HF transmiter hooked up to my 30 meter arial on the roof, so in the event of emergency I can use the hand crank and mechanical key to tap out my vital business communications in Morse code.

But just in case the laws of physics change and radio propogation fails I make sure to have my Indian blanket and two sticks as well.

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So, what's new?

As always, nothing is new here …

First of all, the technology which Bill Gates is touting as yet another revolution of the world is already here. PC-based phones have been available for well over ten years – first, they were plug in cards, around 2000 they became IP-based applications.

Are people using them? Only few are, and most cases I know of are call centres enjoying the easy integration with they CRM software. Something which can be done using desktop phones and integration software as well.

But of course, since Microsoft has seen the light and has finally started talking about introducing technology that others have been shelling out for 5+ years, it is now the New Wonder™.

And trust me: It will work. A lot of executives will buy into this, throwing a lot of money at Microsoft for getting it, being all excited about having the vision to be first movers into this new technology. And then … silence?

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Bill Gates Predicts?

Bill Gates has a record of predictions worse than your average Dial a Psycic. Paperless Office, 640k ram, Tablet PCs, Web TV.

I predict he'll be wrong, again!

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Apocryphal quotes

By now most people know the 640K quote is made up. However many reasons there are to dislike Mr. Gates, surely there's no reason to lie and make up some?

So it's a bit pointless to see it mentioned twice in the comments. Don't tell me they didn't foresee this, in their happy comments about a prediction they expect to fail.

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What is that office phone Gates is talking about?

Now I dimly remember- a strange phone-like device that is attached by a cord to a plug in the office wall and cannot be used otherwise. I haven't used those in years. My employer suppies everyone with a GSM mobile phone, and the situation is similar in most other companies I deal with. I guess Finland (where I work) is ahead of the curve here. Bill Gates is flat-out wrong here and showing his PC-obsession. Why on earth should I use a PC (or any PC-like device) for talking, when the task can be handled with a tiny mobile phone that is no sweat to carry always with you and is more reliable than any Windows PC will ever be?

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Use your PC to dial 999 ?

And when my office is burning down I'm going to rely on my PC to dial 999 ? I don't think so - if give me an old fashioned analogue phone anyday

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Basket Case

Nothing like putting all your eggs in one basket. So when it all goes t*ts-up, as most Microsoft stuff does as some point, we'll be back to pigeon post. Humppphhh

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Amazing...

My office phone just predicted the death of Bill Gates.

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I'm still.......

I’m still waiting for my house on the Moon and air car in my garage. Look into the future, Bill Gates can not, Smart he maybe. Jedi he is not.

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Wait a minute

Arn't we still using the qwerty keyboard- alegedly designed to slow typests down, so the levers with the letters on the end didn't get caught up together...

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The problem with Gates is...

He's too rich. And I don't mean that in any sort of communist sense. I mean simply that in his own little billionaire's club, where he's got an army of people sorting out his email and can buy a hundred of anything, he doesn't see things from our plebeian angle.

End to spam? Sure! For him, it's already happened. Just have a huge department to delete his viagra spam for him. Use a PC with a 3 hour battery life as his phone? No problem, he's got a few $100 batteries on standby. His tablet PC is a success for him! Why, he probably owns half a dozen of them himself. Never an outage in his hermetically-sealed, UPSed, IT-back-uped world.

Meanwhile, for us where some have never used a computer, a PC is overkill. Especially if there's a power failure, and the only working device is the ancient kit which gets 48V from the copper wires from the telco office. Especially in the country, where POTS is the ONLY communication network. Doubly so where you want a phone that doesn't need to reboot, and you don't need to buy antivirus for a touch-tone.

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Gates is a nut, but not too far off.

Most of the things he's "into" have really neat niche uses. Take, for instance, tablet PCs. Mostly, they're useless. Especially for the things he says they're useful for.

But they're a hell of a tool for logistics or inventory or any time when you do a bunch of really complex things with a really complex UI that you just can't get to fit on a teensy little screen without sacrificing functionality or making every form 2000 pages long.

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Phones and Tablets

I use a NEC Versa LitePad table every day - and have since I bought it 4 years ago. It was the only tablet worth hitting a dog in the arse with: the same useful area as a sheet of paper, reasonable speed and just enough storage to keep what is needed on it. Which, by the way, is notes (I use it instead of paper for all meetings and conversations) and documents (especially the maintenance manuals for my 50 year-old MGA). Battery life DOES suck, but I still have three to swap in when one runs down. Best of all, it cost US$900 new - cheap then and still working now.

The point here is that I do NOT use it as my desktop computer - rather, it is an adjunct that permits integrating information that normally escapes digital capture. I was using a Franklin (I think) electronic note pad (you wrote on a paper tablet with an RF pen and the tablet that was part of the folio captured the pen strokes). This was also wonderful, but no one understood the usefulness of the device and when drivers quit being written I had to abandon it.

I guess the rambling point here is that there are different uses for different devices - phone, laptop, tablet, server, etc. There *IS* merit in getting convergence in the device footprints - that is, if I had a laptop PC with a tablet screen that could be removed (completely) for use in note-taking or carrying large reference documents around, that also had a wireless telephone that could dock into it for data exchange and modem use - but could also be removed and used stand-alone as a cell phone. This *SHOULD* be easy to provide these days: the only requirement would be to have power and a USB interface and a solid dock latch into the laptop body.

Oh, by the way, my comment to this story (before I was side-tracked): there WAS a convergent device like this back in the mid 1990's. Built by AT&T, it was a tablet computer, running and advanced OS specifically geared to note-taking and information display, with an integrated cell phone that could also work as a CDPD modem. It was called the EO, and lasted all of about a year...

...because it didn't run Windows...

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Pidgeon Post??

Been done.

See

http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1149

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gz

"rich"

If Gates, Balmer or any other MS mouthpiece uses the adjective "rich" again, I will probably puke. I think it was last year, in a single paragraph, Gates used it 8 or 9 times to describe various content and functions; it's such a stupid word in this context anyway.

I agree with other posters that Gates (and Jobs and others in the top echelon of the electronic consumer products industry) are completely out of touch with the everyday realities the common herd face. They seem so have no idea of how people want to use computers, phones, etc and live with their "vision" while the rest of have to find ways of making the things actually work (where possible).

P.S. What's a "pidgeon"?

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