Who Needs (Better) Desk Phones? People with Desks
Compromising the essential requirements for desk phones will end up costing your company money in lost efficiency.
One of the key points that emerged from the recent story about Microsoft's price increases in Client Access Licenses (CALs) is that Microsoft seems to be moving toward monetizing multi-device users--the fact that many people want to have a single client or interface on multiple devices for accessing the same work. That trend has been clear for awhile, and with Outlook and now Lync, Microsoft has a key edge when it comes to owning end user eyeballs on multiple enterprise devices--regardless of who makes the device.
Add to this the proliferation of over-the-top services like Skype and What's App; the emergence of WebRTC for in-browser communications; and the continued growth of mobility regardless of the access medium and client--and we can all be forgiven for just assuming that the desk phone, sitting there sad and lonely and neglected, is bound for recycle bins across the enterprise.
As well it should be. Eventually.
However, a lot of people will always--as in, always--need a device that sits on their desk, is continually on and always available, and always connected to emergency services. They'll always need this because their job involves sitting at a desk and, periodically or constantly, talking to remote people.
So that, right there, is the job description of a desk phone in, say, 2016--always on and good quality. Everything else ought to be negotiable and--more importantly--fodder for innovation.
Maybe that desk phone is really a docking station for a mobile device? That'd be cool, as long as the docking station connects that device to a voice network that's better quality than today's cellular networks. The mobile device isn't a phone in this scenario, it's a computer, valued for its screen interface and ability to host or access applications and data--all of which can contribute to enriching the voice element. (See Phil Edholm and Fred Knight for their perspectives here.)
Maybe that desk phone is a little "pod" designed to sit on a desk and talk Bluetooth to a headset, but still a fully-functional telephony device controlled via voice commands (though maybe not such a great idea in crowded offices with open floor plans...).
Who would make these phones? I think someone other than the folks who make the back-end communications systems. Hopefully those companies are coming up with clever software designed to run on multiple platforms--including but certainly not limited to these new-generation desk phones.
There are going to be more and more multi-purpose workers who work at a desk, on the road, in the air, and anywhere else they're willing to take their mobile device. For these folks, communications vendors have to see the "device" as really being "the devices," and enabling multi-platform interfaces is their best bet.
But for those who work in one place all day long, the important thing about their device will be that it's always on and always high-quality voice. Forcing these workers to use devices that don't meet that threshold will reduce their efficiency and cost your company money.
For now, that clunky desk phone still satisfies those two most important criteria, so these folks might as well keep using it. But we can do better.