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September 10, 2005

Why Is It Still So Amazing When a Computer Dials a Phone?

The other day I was at a demo of a prototype of a future Microsoft project. One of the features was that it could dial your phone. Meaning you had info about Mary up on your screen, click on this button here, and presto your phone is calling Mary. Then on the other end, when Mary got your call, her computer could pop up information about you.

I've occasionally seen demos like this in the past, and my question is: why do I still keep seeing them? Understand that this wasn't the point of the app; it wasn't a phone dialer. It was just one little feature. But the person doing the demo took pains to point it out. Why bother? I mean they don't demo "Look I press this button here and magically it starts to print" or "hey I click on this URL and zowie zooks, your browser pops up." Those things were worth mentioning in a demo for a while, years ago, but now they've become mundane and nobody bothers, because they're expected. Yet dialing a phone from a computer is still awe-inspiring.

There's a term for this integration: Computer Telephony Integration. My theory is that the reason people keep mentioning it in demos is because it's taking a long long time to happen. Computer Printer Integration and Computer Modem Integration and Computer Firewall Integration and Computer Fax Integration have all been solved, but Computer Telephony Integration is still lurking in the near beyond. It should be a few lines of code in your app, but it isn't. So the people putting together these demos know about the hassle involved in making it work, it has an outsized footprint in their mind compared to the actual screen or feature list real estate that it occupies, and therefore they mention it in the demo.

Posted by AdamBa at September 10, 2005 09:47 AM

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I thought Office Communicator 2005 already did this? (Assuming the back-end infrastructure is in-place, of course).


Posted by: Mark Lambourne at September 12, 2005 07:33 AM