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Gates: Phones should call person, not numberMicrosoft CEO and Chairman Bill Gates sat down with CNET News.com's Ina Fried to discuss how Unified Communications software will finally modernize the business phone. Now if you want to reach people, you can just click and see if and how they're available,...
[ Music ] ^M00:00:03 >> What will unified communications mean for the average person? >> Well today when we think about the phone, we think hey, it's quite reliable, we have all these different phone numbers. If we give out our phone numbers somebody can call us when we might prefer not to be disturbed. We can get busy signals, come back to our office and not really know who's called us. When we leave to go away we think geez, will people be able to get in touch with us. So it's -- it's not perfect. We ask people if they could transfer phone calls easily and actually only one out of three said that was something they were successful at doing. And so that phone on your desk with all those buttons and only that tiny screen just hasn't evolved like your mobile phone has or like your Windows PC has. So there's real chance as we move the phone off of its own infrastructure, the PBX, its own wiring, its own desktop handset, move it on to the Internet, Windows-based servers running a standard platform. Any type of peripheral phone innovation that any company wants to build, any type of software that can connect in and think about your type of business and what the user interface on the nice big screen should be for calls moving around. There's a lot of opportunity here. So it's telephony done in a much better way. We say unified communications because as you bring the screen in and the video, we didn't want people to think its just voice, but it's much, much more. >> What do you think the desktop phone in the office looks like five years from now, or the cell phone. >> Well, I think for some people the idea of having a desktop PC, a portable PC, and then the phone that fits in their pocket -- that would be enough for them because we can connect in to the now software equivalent of the PBX in the same rich way. You have the nice directory and the standard relationships with people. To the degree you have a desk phone, it could either be just a peripheral to the PC, the USB or wireless-type device that's going through the Windows PC, or it can be a stand-alone device. Or now you'll have a much bigger screen, you'll have some touch type capability, and so even transferring calls can be a simple thing to do. And seeing the presence as you scroll through the names of the people you call. It will just show up right there. >> It seems like one of the keys to really improving both business and personal communications is sort of these natural language interfaces, like voice and touch coming into computing. How much change do you think we're going to see in that area in the next few years. >> Well, I think that we can unify communications without too much recognition activity. Simply being able to send the calls around. If you do a video meeting, being able to record that so you can go back and find it. But we can do even more if we have the recognition piece in. We can do the transcript to the meeting that you could search the text and find the part that you're interested in, we can take your notes on the phone call, have those -- dictate those out very easily. And so we are investing heavily in speech recognition as an adjunct to this. For example, you should be able to say, hey, transfer this call to so and so, instead of even going over to the PC screen. So we will be incorporating that in. We recently acquired Tell Me. They have a huge database of the different ways that people talk when asked these questions. So we're training our speech engines around that.