Microsoft wants to give callers email-like 'important' flag

If you get a lot of work-related email, there's a good chance that you've seen the misuse of priority tags -- potluck dinners are suddenly as vital as company-wide meetings. It's with a sense of dread, then, that we learned that Microsoft has applied for a patent on prioritizing phone calls. The approach would let callers choose an urgency level that flashes alerts, sends messages and otherwise signals that a call can't wait. It would simultaneously foil telemarketers and other cold callers by requiring a passcode or encrypted authentication. If granted, the patent could be useful for on-call workers and worried parents. That said, we won't mind if Microsoft declines to use it; we don't need high-priority calls to refill the office coffee pot.