The big unanswered question about tri-mode handsets

Wearing my ZDNet hat (actually badge) proudly, I helmed a panel at the VoIP 2.0 IP Telephony Conference yesterday entitled: "VoIP:Where We're Going, We're We've Been.

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Wearing my ZDNet hat (actually badge) proudly, I helmed a panel at the VoIP 2.0 IP Telephony Conference yesterday entitled: "VoIP:Where We're Going, We're We've Been."

I like steering these panels in directions that are about as far from "here's our solution, we'd love to work with you," into sideways directions that establish new relevancies.

Such as: 

How will consumers manage the VoIP/Wi-Fi/cell handoff in next. gen handsets? - When and if (that's a big honkin' if, considering big ""telecelcom" 's presumed reluctance to open up to the flexibility of true, tri-mode handsets (such as, say, a cell-enabled version of the current Vonage UT Starcom F1000 Wi-Fi/VoIP handset) will the consumer pre-program a series of if/then scenarios on their PC?

If so, how will this information get to the handset?

Rich Birckbichler, who is vice-president of sales for Versatel, pointed to the PC-controlled platform for this convergence. Extrapolating a typical usage scenario from his presentation, a subscriber wishing their handset to automatically switch from cell to Wi-Fi if a Wi-Fi signal in an area they have just arrived at is above a certain signal strength, would simply program that information into a preferences menu in control software installed on their PC.  From the PC it would be transferred to the mobile device.

I then interjected a hypothetical question, but one with real-world applicability. So what if I have pre-configured my mobile handset with these preferences, but change my mind once I am mobile and away from the PC where I specified those preferences? What types of controls - preferences, override, etc., will be possible via the handset as well as the PC?

It was at this point that I invited MERA Systems North American sales manager Dmitry Stafeev to join this line of conversation.

We then started to talk about the fact that this was possible, but would need to be done with flexibility and usability in mind. In other words, the ubiquitious multi-mode handsets of the future would need to have hand-offs and preference menus that are not hidden too deep in the menu taxonomy; are clearly demarcated about what their functions are, and be, well, you know, user-friendly.

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