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October 6, 1998

NOW MICROSOFT DEVELOPS CORDLESS PHONE SYSTEM

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft Corp has taken the unusual, and as yet unexplained, step developing a cordless, fixed line phone and base station that incorporates voice recognition software for managing incoming calls and messages. The Redmond company is not manufacturing the phone – for that it has an OEM deal with an unnamed Malaysian company – but it did work on integrating its own voice recognition and messaging software into the phone and base station hardware. The work Microsoft has had to put into integrating the software and hardware, is – it claims – the reason why it went alone on manufacturing the phone, rather than licensing the software to a telecommunications equipment manufacturer with established sales channels. The software, which Redmond says it is a means for telecoms carriers to offer new services, enables the phone user to label and block unwanted callers, lets through high priority callers and create greetings for regular callers. It is also possible to perform fairly mundane functions such as deleting messages using voice commands. Microsoft does not pretend that all these applications offer anything new, what it does claim is that the software ties together a number of functions already separately available and adds improved voice recognition capabilities. Even though Microsoft says it is aiming the so-called Cordless Phone System, which will be available in November, to home users as well as business users, it is questionable whether the phone is really suitable for the mass home market. In order to operate the phone, users will need a PC equipped with a Pentium 90 processor, 32MB of RAM, a 16 bit Windows sound card, and running the Windows 95 or 98 operating system. Users will have to plug the base station that comes with the phone into a PC and then plug it into cordless phone’s cradle. Microsoft will also need to find phone operators willing to offer the messaging service, and although Microsoft did say it is in talks with potential partners, it has yet to issue any list of whom.

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