The only thing that could make you look smarter than being able to operate a VCR is being able to set up a mobile conference call.
Conference calls, of course, are the application nobody thinks is worth having. Theres a reason for that: Theyre wretchedly difficult to organize.
Lets say youre at a football game with a few friends. The original plan was to meet afterward, around whatever oclock, and go for a beer or two, but the game went into overtime. There werent any groups of empty seats that allowed you and your friends to sit together, so everybody is scattered around the stadium. Also, Jim was late. Matt forgot about it until the last minute and is now on his way. And nobody has seen Carol all week.
The smart thing to do would be to set up a conference call among friends and discuss where to go and what time to meet. But setting up a conference call is not easy, so nobody thinks of doing it.
That may change, though, thanks to a company called Mobix, which lets you set up a conference call by sending a text message.
The trick is to have a smart phone, of course. Oh, and it also helps if your favorite phone was built by someone who understands texting, which, it turns out, means someone other than Palm licensee Group Sense PDA, who makes the Xplore smart phone.
Heres how the texting approach works. You download a little application called 2buzz, provided by Mobix, onto your phone. You may not even have to go to the Mobix Web site; some phone providers resell the software.
The normal ritual in setting up a conference call requires concentration, skill, and above all, that prize quality of a good comedian: timing. I dont know who designed the system, but the person was obviously working in the distant past, before the advent of text tags. The trouble is, there are still people who are working in the distant past.
: The Texting Solution”>
In most of the world, texting is used on a scale to which, it seems, many American phone users are still not accustomed. At least, thats the best excuse I can come up with for the Xplore smart phone, which doesnt use text tags.
In any part of Europe, if you ring your mobile network to ask for a phone number, you have a choice. You can write it down with a pen, which nobody does. You can have the operator connect you, which will cost you about the same as a half-hours worth of conversation. Or, you can have the operator send you the number as an SMS (Short Message Service) text message.
All the user has to do is scroll down through the text message and click on the highlighted phone number, and the phone does the dialing. You pay for the text—and for the inquiry call, of course. But the chance of getting the wrong number is pretty close to zero.
Thats how Mobix does conference calls.
It might take you five minutes to set up a conference call the old-fashioned way—first calling all the parties, then making sure theyre all on standby, and finally pulling them in one-by-one (only to discover that Jim got tired of waiting and took another call, and Matt accidentally hung up). But Mobix does it all in a text message. The call organizer scrolls through the contact list in his phone, picks out the people who are going to be on the call, and sends the same message to all of them: “You ring this number [text tag] at this time.”
Set the time for five minutes in the future. The network sends the messages and just before its time to get together, it sends another one with the number that says, “Dial now!”
Everybody clicks on the number, and bingo! Youve got a conference call. (Of course, Brad and Guy have decided they dont want a beer, and Carol has been standing outside the stadium in the cold all evening wondering where you all are, but thats football.) A consensus is easily reached, and you all go home to watch a movie. Or you meet on Jims boat and go for an evening cruise…whatever.
At least, thats how it should work.
Unfortunately, it doesnt work on the Xplore. And its not just the Mobix 2buzz application that doesnt work—I couldnt get any phone-number text tag to work.
I can just hear you guys Over There not gasping with astonishment. But to anybody working in Europe or most of Asia, a phone that doesnt automatically scan a text message for a phone number (or URL) and turn it into a hot link, is a little like a PC that doesnt run a browser.
It is weird that it doesnt work. But whats stranger is that someone could design a phone in 2004 and not understand how important it is that it work.
Read more from Guy Kewney on trends in mobile and wireless technology.
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