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11/2/2009
06:49 PM
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VoiceCon 2009: Cutting The Cord On Enterprise Phones

Experts debate the transitioning role of the desktop phone and whether smartphones, Unified Communications, and soft phones can fulfill enterprise voice needs.

Voice still remains the most important business communication tool, but with all the innovations and advancements in smartphones, Unified Communications, and PC-based soft phones, is it time for enterprises to realistically think about completely ditching their traditional desktop phones?

During a panel Monday at VoiceCon San Francisco 2009, industry experts discussed the transitioning role of the desktop phone on the modern workforce, and whether companies can continue to justify their expenditures for this hardware. While the panelists disagreed on multiple topics, there was a consensus that desktop phone shipments will decline but it's far too early to fully dig the traditional phone's grave.

"I think the phone hasn't evolved the same way our other communications technology has," said Dave Michels, a telecommunications blogger with No Jitter and Pin Drop Soup. "The value proposition for a top-of-the-line VoIP phone without video is pretty much the same as it was 30 years ago."

Michels said landline phones are generally only used to make, receive, and transfer calls, and it is becoming harder to justify large purchases when there are other technologies that can achieve those goals, as well as provide mobility, applications, and other value-added services for similar costs. Additionally, Michels said a landline terminal also effectively chain workers to a desk and this doesn't jibe with an increasingly mobile workforce that wants flexibility and adaptability.

Ten years ago, employees would receive a business call on their cell phones, walk into the office, and then call the client back from the landline due to voice quality issues. But Michels said expectations and usage cases have changed, and end-users and clients now expect to be able to finish their conversations without having to wait to be called back from a landline. This could create a lot of opportunities for cellular providers to begin offering hosted PBX services, or offerings like Research In Motion's BlackBerry Mobile Voice System, Michels said.

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