Time to Ditch Your Deskphone?

  • If this were a cartoon instead of a blog, it would have a deskphone with angel’s wings soaring up into the clouds and Saint Peter waving it in. But it isn’t, so we’ll have to rely on words instead to describe a major trend in enterprise AV and IT.
  • The deskphone is dying because so many other devices do what it does and more, often for less money. For example, an enterprise-class voice-only deskphone costs about $100, with a videoconferencing capabilities bumping it up to $700 or more. But a softphone client such as CounterPath’s Bria runs less than $20 per seat and turns an existing investment, such as a PC, into a deskphone. Suddenly the deskphone and its OpEx look superfluous.
  • Tablets provide another nail for the coffin. If an employee already has one—and many do, thanks to spending trends over the past two years—it’s probably because she spends a significant part of her work day away from her desk or on the road. If she needs video to do her job, carting around a Cisco E20 or Polycom VVX 1500 isn’t a viable option, nor is it cost-effective if it just collects dust along with the rest of her office. Hence the appeal of a VoIP/video client for her tablet.
  • The deskphone served enterprises well for many decades, which is why it’s going to heaven. Enterprise technology managers can avoid the alternate fate for themselves by making sure that their infrastructure and policies are capable of supporting the consequences of deskphone obsolescence.
  • Case in point: connectivity. Do your LAN and WAN have the bandwidth and QoS necessary to handle a sharp increase in employee video calling and conferencing? Do your road warriors and field workers have a cellular plan that’s capable of delivering enough bandwidth in both directions and at a price that won’t break your budget? What about a Wi-Fi plan for when they’re in hotels and airports?
  • Another example is a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, which guarantees a wide variety of smartphone and tablet operating systems (OSs). If that’s what your organization has, one thing to look for when comparing VoIP and video softphone clients is whether each one supports all of the OSs you have—including Macs and PCs for office-bound workers. Don’t overlook hardware, too. Just because employees have tablets and smartphones doesn’t mean they all have the front-facing camera and processing power necessary to support video calling and conferencing.
  • Sure, not every organization can make a business case for replacing some or all of its deskphones and videoconferencing endpoints with Macs, PCs or mobile devices. But plenty of organizations can, judging by the growing selection of softphone products and services.

Since 1998, Tim Kridel has covered the tech and telecom industries for a variety of publications and websites, including AV Technology, Carrier Ethernet News, Digital Innovation Gazette, Pro AV, and InAVate. His coverage includes Carrier Ethernet, mobile apps, speech recognition, digital signage, FTTx, videoconferencing, Wi-Fi, and cellular. He can be reached at tim@timkridel.com.