There's Slick, and then there's SLICK!
May 1999

In the May edition of CTI (Computer-Telephone Integration) magazine, publisher Rich Tehrani paints a slick, simplistic view of the CTI industry. He claims that CTI is moving from a proprietary set of vendor-oriented platforms, to an "open" PC-based architecture. He praises this supposed openness, saying, "There's open, and then there's OPEN!" However, Mr. Tehrani is hiding the truth. That depends on what meaning of the word OPEN is.

There are two basic kinds of deceivers, of course. There's the bald-faced liar who will tell you "the sky is green" and expects you to believe it. Then there's the smooth, spin-doctor type of salesman -- like Rich Tehrani -- who says "the sky is always blue." Most days you look up and say, Yes, this man is telling the truth. It's only when the little storms of life crop up that you realize you've been deceived.

Mr. Tehrani's article states that PBX (Private Branch Exchange) telephone systems from old-line vendors like AT&T and Nortel Networks are closed, but that PC-based telephony systems are becoming more open. He bases this statement on the idea that soon you will be able to use any vendor's CTI expansion card in your PC slots, and you will be able to program to a "standard abstraction layer that is hardware-vendor independent." The deception in his statement is his omission of one little fact: that abstraction layer is none other than Microsoft's proprietary, closed operating system called Windows NT.

Yes, it may be somewhat "open" to have a variety of plug-in cards to choose from. Yes, it's nice to have a wide variety of personal computer hardware to choose from. It seems to be an open platform. However, Microsoft's Windows NT is neither open, nor a free choice. If the hardware vendors only make device drivers to allow their plug-in cards to communicate with Windows NT, then where is your freedom of choice in platforms? And if Microsoft builds proprietary roadblocks inside Windows NT, causing one or more CTI card vendors to have superior -- or inferior -- performance, then where is the openness? Where is the "level playing field?"

In fact, all Mr. Tehrani's article does is cleverly hide the fact that the "closed-ness" or "proprietary-ness" of CTI systems is now being "abstracted" out of the hardware layer and being inserted into the operating system layer. This process actually locks-down the platform to a single OS vendor, removing any freedom of choice that was previously available. Except for the existing base of Unix-based CTI systems (slated for eventual elimination by Microsoft), only a single vendor, Touchvoice Systems, has been able to wrangle a CTI card vendor to make device drivers available for an alternative operating system, IBM OS/2 Warp. Everyone else has been swept cleanly into the Windows-only proprietary platform scam.

Mr. Tehrani then fails to point out the obvious contradiction in Microsoft's position in the CTI market: Microsoft has made a $44 million dollar investment in CTI board maker Dialogic, Inc. This means that Microsoft now has a vested interest in making sure that competing CTI card makers have higher costs, poorer performance, and lower market share than Dialogic. Eventually, an NT-only, Dialogic-only CTI platform will emerge -- one that is even more proprietary, more closed, and more devoid of choice than the old-time "closed" PBX marketplace ever was.

With devious publishers like Rich Tehrani dominating the CTI magazine publishing space, forcing out writers that support real openness and real freedom of choice, most buyers of CTI technology have no idea that they are being maneuvered and hoodwinked into supporting a closed, choiceless world. It's coconspirators like Rich Tehrani and his TMC (Technology Media Publishing) that make Microsoft's greed and power lust work effectively to kill consumer and business choice.

Most recent revision: May 10, 1999
Copyright © 1999, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.