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Microsoft's Cordless Phone

Microsoft Reaches out and Touches

900 MHz phone interfaces with PC

By Jim Bray

Now, the U.S. Justice Department can really get hung up on Microsoft!

The software giant has introduced a 900 Mhz cordless telephone that not only functions as a regular standalone unit, but which interfaces with your PC as well.

The Microsoft Cordless phone ($289 Cdn, for Windows) comes with a handset, a cradle/battery charger you can put anywhere in the home, and a base unit that plugs into your phone line on one hand and a PC serial port on the other. There’s also a CD-ROM of nifty-sounding software included.

Hooking up the unit is easy, and the software installation checks your serial ports to make sure everything’s tickety-boo before letting you use the machine. It correctly pointed out to me that my serial ports weren’t working (they’d been disabled for an earlier review and I’d forgotten to get them up again) and once I fixed that I was off and running.

The phone features lots of toys, like multiple voice mailboxes that let you direct callers to the appropriate mailbox for any employee or member of the family. There’s also "Voice Command Dialing," which lets you direct your computer to place a call by simply speaking into your phone. With Voice Command you don’t have to remember a person’s phone number: all you have to do is say the name of the person you want to call and the little gadget obediently dials for you. You have to program the people in first, of course...

There are also more normal features, like caller ID (if you have that service), except you can customize this version, creating your own announcements or individualized greetings to be prattled at incoming calls. You can also block unwanted calls, give special callers a higher priority, and you can even have your phone/PC tell you by voice who’s calling, so you can either take the call or hide from it.

Want to get a handle on who the kids are calling? "Call Manager" logs incoming and outgoing calls, giving you a record of your phone activity. And when you’re out and about, you can have the phone notify you of important messages, either via your cellphone, pager or a remote phone number. You can also easily check messages by dialing from a remote location.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get these razzle dazzle features to work! The phone wouldn’t make calls unless I set it to "pulse dialing," even though I could receive calls just fine! Weird. I have other cordless phones (though no 900 MHz ones) and they work great! And I couldn’t get the voice features running, either, possibly because of a conflict with my sound card oir other software.

Alas, review samples of the phone were as scarce as non-partisanship in the US Democratic Party, so I had to send the unit back before my calling conundrums were curbed.

As a standalone 900 MHz phone, the Microsoft works fine. 900 MHz phones give you better range and clearer sound (normally, at least) than normal cordless phones, and I found the sound quality of this unit was fine.

However, if you can’t get all the neat PC stuff to operate you’re left with a garden variety 900 MHz phone. And that’s okay, except that this unit’s a tad pricey when compared with some of the "non-toy-enhanced" competition.


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January 31, 2006