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Rich Tehrani

[July 23, 2003]

Presence Meets The Cell Phone Thanks To Orative

BY RICH TEHRANI


Perhaps the toughest part of my job is finding time to write about all the new companies worth writing about. It is especially difficult when the company in question has really great technology that changes paradigms. Case in point is a company called Orative (news - alert) I met with a few months ago. Since then, I have found myself speaking about their technology at various speeches I have given. Luckily I found some time to give you some insight on what they are all about.

Orative fixes something that is broken. Telephony is broken. Well don’t take that literally… Of course we are all able to make calls, but I believe that the way we use it is incorrect. This morning on the way to the airport I had three urgent calls to make. I had scheduled them all to take place in a two-hour block the prior evening. I called the first person who was on the phone. He said he was finishing up a conference call and would call me in 10 minutes. I called the other two people on my list and left messages.

All three calls came in at once and it took 12 phone calls to connect with all three of these people. Worse yet, the phone kept ringing during important parts of the conversation and it became difficult to hear the other party with constant call-waiting tones in my ear. Cell phones have made us infinitely more efficient but 12 phone calls to speak with three people leaves room for improvement.

Enter Orative. They make software that turns cell phones into extensions of the PBX. Using any wireless carrier you install software on your cellular phones. The software can be BREW, Java or Symbian based.

Instead of incessant phone calls, others politely message you to see if you are available. When you receive said message, you are also provided with a subject. Presence is built in, meaning you will know when the other party is available, at lunch, etc.

Caller ID does some of this but not all. How many times has a family member interrupted an important meeting? You take the call because it could be urgent. Once on the line you end up answering to “chicken or fish for dinner?”

Using Orative’s technology, you could tell your spouse (by pressing a few buttons) that you will be available in an hour and schedule a call at that time. Instead of answering to chicken or fish, you are able to communicate at a time that works for you. You can postpone calls as needed to fit into your ever-changing workday and lifestyle. It is like a snooze button for phone calls. Since there is built-in presence, you can put your phone in DND mode if you like. You can even schedule certain times of the day where the phone will automatically go into and out of this mode. You have full Active Directory support, eliminating the need for tedious keying and rekeying of phone number data. Using this approach, phones can have access to a directory of unlimited size. My cell phone can’t take much more than a few hundred contacts and I have closer to 500+ that I would like access to.

There is more… Soon there will be support for speech recognition. GPS integration is coming as well. Imagine that you can have presence based on location. You’ll be able to manage field sales and service forces much more effectively.

Additionally, you can decide to push a message out to all phones in the organization…something you can’t easily do today. What makes this so attractive is the fact that we all have our cell phones with us at all times, unlike PDAs and Blackberries. Other notable features are full password support and built-in security. Furthermore, call record logging is done automatically, making this system useful for law firms and consultants.

If there is one problem with this technology it is that there isn’t a name for it. It is tough to budget for something that doesn’t fit neatly into a bucket for the CFO to sign off on. In my meeting with the company, we played around with some names for this technology and came up with Power Messaging for Mobile Phones. I liked it. It has been a few months. I am sure the technology has evolved and they have picked a name for the category. I’ll keep you posted on the name as well as how well the technology works as I am looking forward to demoing it soon.

One last note. 3G is coming to a cell phone near you. The technology works and will be rolled out in the next few years. It will have SIP (news - alert - define - tutorial)  integration and VoIP (news - alert - define - tutorial) support. Much of what Orative is doing is presence based and as such it will be interesting to see if their technology is eclipsed or augmented by the onslaught of 3G networks and phones.

Please talk back to me in our forums.

Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments. Participate in our forums.

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