New Technology

Technology marches on.  At Microsoft we always endeavor to make use of any technology that will make people more productive, save money or in some cases just because it is new and we want to see why something is creating ‘buzz’.  Myself, (my family will disagree) as I get older I play with new technology less and less. It has to be useful and easy, if it isn’t I abandon it pretty quick.  I’ve started to use social networking tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, not because I had some important need for them, but because I heard the ‘buzz’ and was curious.  But, I also forced myself to use them because my job is in an essence to make our software better for people.  Staying up to speed with new trends and innovative approaches to how people work together or communicate is a big part of that. 

So even though I am getting old, I do pride myself that it is a more common occurrence in my house to show my kids some cool new ‘thing’ than the other way around.  Although Facebook frankly exists simply because it is a very effective way to help college kids get laid  – you can’t help notice the power behind the way it connects people in ways that simply did not exist before and I have to admit I am starting to use these social networking things more often.  On the other hand,  Facebook has a lot of silly concepts like poking, asking people to take surveys and other annoying things that when I see adults using them, makes me chuckle.  But perhaps I just don’t get it.  But one thing that happens with these tools, is that you find distance acquaintances from your past asking you to be their friend.  Then you have to make a decision about whether you know them enough to let them into your world – and to potentially, unexpectedly, get exposed to their world.  This video really captures the silliness of Facebook and that situation perfectly:

 

The great thing about staying up to snuff on all of these tools is that I can also keep tabs on the kids.  Or specifically Chelan.  I reminded her the other day that I was one of her ‘friends’ on Facebook and could see everything!  That got a good teenage groan out of her.  Of course the opposite is true in that my family reads this blog and I now have to think about the ‘get laid’ comment up above and whether I should remove it or not.  We are in a world where communication transparency is becoming the norm.  Anyone can publish and reach an unlimited audience for next to zero cost.  Back in the days where publishing was very expensive (newspapers, tv-stations), the content had to go through a high-level of scrutiny before it was deemed worthy of the cost to publish it.  Now suddenly we are all publishers.

But, that is a whole other topic.  What I sat down to write about was my new IP Phone in my office.  I got this new phone.  Latest technology.  Completely integrates with our corporate messaging system (Office Communicator) which is a complicated way of saying that it uses the same stuff we use to IM each other.  Phone calls are over the internet so no long distance charges.  It has this big LCD color touch-screen so that I can easily scroll through and pick a contact to call.  So, best thing ever right? 

Well, not so fast.  First thing I had to do is login to the thing.  Yes, I had to log-in to my phone!  Put my email address in, put my domain credentials and my password.  Simple, but the first problem was that the touch screen keypad made it very easy to make a mistake and misspell something like my password (which I did). 

Then for some reason they had not ‘enabled’ my phone on the server so it did not work for a few days.  That problem got solved and I was up and running.  Then I looked at the screen that has my contact list in color with pretty icons and I thought "who are these people?".  I knew who they were, but I foolishly was thinking that my Outlook contacts would show up.  No, it is my list of IM-buddies (remember it is using the same stuff our IM client does).  But I don’t call these people (at least not that often).  What I want is my contacts.  My home phone, Heidi’s cell phone, Heidi’s work, kids phones, the things I use my phone for the most often.  At Microsoft I use IM and e-mail predominantly to communicate with people I work with.  Or I go down the hall and meet with them.  The phone is not super-popular.  So, now I have this new cool piece of technology – actually a whole lot of technology goes into making this think work; but it isn’t optimized for my primary use.  It also is very prone to service interruptions compared to a real phone.  The manual talked about all the ways the phone would potentially stop working that was quite amusing (network goes down, network gets slow, servers go down).  I don’t remember all of them but it was funny and the final recommendation was to make sure you had a back-up phone like a cell-phone in case of an emergency (hah!).  And to top it off, the sound quality is not anywhere near a real phone. 

So, I may sound whiny, but it is still very cool.  It looks cool (which is very important) and it saves the company money.  And, I don’t have to login every time because it has a fingerprint reader.  I just swipe my finger over a sensor to make a phone call.  How cool is that!  Before I just picked the phone up and dialed – now I get to use a fingerprint scanner that proves that it is me, then I pick up the phone and dial (that’s progress!).  I will use this phone, and I doubt I will ever have an ‘old-style phone’ in my office again.  And, it is likely that everyone will eventually be using IP Phones.  I happily take on the burden of being on the leading edge, even if sometimes seems very silly.

-Andy

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