Phil Edholm
Phil Edholm is the President and Founder of PKE Consulting, which consults to end users and vendors in the communications...
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Phil Edholm | April 10, 2012 |


The End of the Desk Phone?

The End of the Desk Phone? If I were a CIO and my telecom manager came to me with a PO for a bunch of traditional or "new" IP phones, we would need to have a hard discussion about whether this was a good investment.

If I were a CIO and my telecom manager came to me with a PO for a bunch of traditional or "new" IP phones, we would need to have a hard discussion about whether this was a good investment.

The announcement of the iPad3 really crystallized an interesting concept that has been on my mind for some time; Why would anyone buy a new desktop telephony device for an office, or even a cubicle? While there may be some places where a $150 basic phone is needed, for all of the rest, has the iPad has become an overwhelming choice as the device to buy for office worker telephony?

The iPad2 is now $399. While this is "only" 16gigs, has no 3G and does not have a retinal display or the new high resolution camera, it is WAY better than any phone out there. And for $100 more you get one of the best personal video conferencing devices in the iPad3 with a true HD display and a great camera. And every vendor of telephony and UC is rushing their iPad app into the market, with the commitment that it will be a game changing experience for voice, video and collaboration.

Now I know what some would say that the iPad is not really a "phone", but let's examine this. For $100 you can buy the Altec Lansing Octiv iPad base. It gives a great arm to hold the iPad at ideal videoconferencing level with landscape or portrait settings, and has really good speakers for that speakerphone experience when doing video. Combine this and the iPad3 for a great personal video system for $600.

While the iPad as a speakerphone works really well, for a little more you can have a great headset, wired or Bluetooth. I prefer the Plantronics Voyager/Savi as a headset , but if you hanker for a real old style handset, check out Doodoomama, where for about $20 you can have a retro Western Electric style handset, and in a rainbow of colors.

Or if you prefer something that looks a bit more "professional", for $80 you can buy the Native Union MM03, with a nice base and Bluetooth connectivity to your iPad or other devices.

If you prefer the more custom route, Shoretel is leading the charge in announcing a custom base for the iPad. I expect to see iPad bases from most if not all of the big UC vendors soon, though the price point may be higher than the consumer devices.

I have been using an iPad for most of my communications for the last 9 months and have found it to be very reliable, has reasonable voice quality and works well as an office speakerphone. I use it with Skype and the Avaya Flare client, and both have worked very well. Over that time I found that I stopped using my traditional desk phone as I really got used to the display on the iPad and all of the information there in either app. The FaceTime video experience is even better quality than Skype and I can't wait to use it with the higher resolution and better display of the iPad3.

If you have a system with a thousand devices and you are adding 50, why not re-deploy 50 of your existing devices and get 50 of your employees an iPad? Not only will their phone experience probably improve, but now they can use the iPad for other functions...and take it with them and use it at home, on the road, at customer sites, anywhere there is a WiFi network. Just think, for salespeople, a base and handset in a hoteling office now becomes an open support for any salesperson with an iPad. And it really helps justify building out a great WiFi infrastructure in your office, which will be a boon to all.

If I were a CIO and my telecom manager came to me with a PO for a bunch of traditional or "new" IP phones, we would need to have a hard discussion about whether this was a good investment. Keep the phones where only a basic phone is required and we probably already have enough of those to last a career. Get the $400 iPad2, a $100 base and the $20 handset and give the users a $520 desk "phone" that makes every other device out there look like it was designed for the last millennium, which they generally were.


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