Push to record...idea #55/100...
Voicemail is still a useful application, despite the ubiquity of text messaging and other forms of asynchronous communication. We all like to talk and voice remains the dominant service for mobile. But, can it be made better?
The newly emerging service for mobile is push-to-talk (PTT). It's an old idea revisited. However, its new form has some important differences from its walkie-talkie ancestor. One crucial difference is the interface. On modern PTT devices the user is presented with a graphical buddy list that works just like those in various Instant Messenger (IM) applications. In essence, PTT is more akin to the voice equivalent of IM than the old walkie-talkie services.
A key feature of the buddy-list interface is presence. This is the ability to view each other's current state of preparedness for a communications session: "online", "offline", "busy" etc. This meta-communication is useful in its own right, which is why presence is being viewed as an integral part of future 3G devices.
Clearly, PTT is an evolution of the voice offering for cellular, but what's this got to do with voicemail?
Voicemail is a form of presence indication, albeit very crude. Getting through to someone's voicemail announcement clearly says "I'm not here to take your call", or the user is "offline". More discerning users of voicemail will update their messages to include more information, like "Today is Tuesday - I am in the office, please leave a message..."
Most of us are unable, or unwilling - in incapable - of updating our announcements that often, if ever, apart from during vacations maybe.
What if our voicemail announcement was a buddy in our PTT list? With one click (push), we could record a new announcement and do this as often as we liked. My suspicion is that many of us would find this useful and probably develop a new habit of updating our voicemail messages often...."I'm in a meeting for the next two hours, please do leave...."
Taking this push-to-record (PTR) a stage further, we could also add the ability to use PTR on a per-buddy basis in addition to the generic announcement. If we PTR with the "voicemail" buddy, then the generic announcement is updated. If we PTR with a particular buddy in our list, say "John", then if John calls he gets the announcement I left for him.
There's no doubt that whenever a service is as simple as pushing a button, we tend to use it. We're push-overs when it comes to push-buttons.
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