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Eric Krapf
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Eric Krapf | September 18, 2008 |

 
   

Interop: What's the Future of the Phone?

Interop: What's the Future of the Phone? Allan Sulkin asked the bottom-line question to his panel here: When will 10% of users abandon desktop phones in favor of softphones, mobiles, or whatever else they come up with?

Allan Sulkin asked the bottom-line question to his panel here: When will 10% of users abandon desktop phones in favor of softphones, mobiles, or whatever else they come up with?

Allan Sulkin asked the bottom-line question to his panel here: When will 10% of users abandon desktop phones in favor of softphones, mobiles, or whatever else they come up with?Allan Mendelsohn of Avaya said flatly, "I don't see it." The analogy that Mendelsohn drew was to the calculator: Even though PCs have way more than enough computing horsepower to add up a bunch of numbers, people still reach into the desk drawer and pull out a calculator when they need to perform that task.

His point was that special-purpose devices will always be required, and will be preferred. And it's tough to argue the point when you're talking about people sitting at their desks all day. But if nothing else, I'd say there's a distinct possibility that in a few years, 10% of the people who now work in an office will be telecommuters, and maybe some of these folks will have big, full-function PBX-style phones at home, but I'd think the vast majority won't.

And the convenience factor certainly doesn't favor traditional phones. Even if you could schlep a desk phone with you everywhere, you wouldn't necessarily have the foresight to do that--just like you wind up using your laptop's calculator when you don't have a special-purpose device on you at the moment. Besides, the world is going more mobile all the time, and I think if you step back and look at it, it's tough to imagine this mega-trend not affecting business telephony.

That high-level view is basically what Sulkin's other panelists took in answering his question. James Stark of Microsoft mentioned various large customers for Office Communications Server--Monsanto, Sprint, Royal Dutch Shell--that are using a mix of soft clients and desk phones, and he said, "We see that mix steadily increasing" its softphone component.

And Paul McMillan of Siemens flagged fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) as the other mega-trend that may affect the mix. McMillan also noted that, as functionality is added to the soft client, use will likely grow.



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