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Desk Phones: Chronicle of a Death Foretold

In our latest No Jitter post on the death of the desk phone, Curtis Peterson, VP of operations at RingCentral, offers "3 Reasons Desk Phones Are on Retirement Fast Track." And yet, even while noting the overall downward trend for desk phones, he notes a RingCentral survey showing that "83% of 505 employee respondents have desk phones. And while they may be in fact ready to let those desk phones die -- 57% of respondents said they make work calls using mobile devices and more than 50% said they believe the desk phone is indeed in decline -- employers aren't quite ready to do away with desk phones."

For another perspective, here’s an anecdote from last week’s Enterprise Connect Tour stop in New York: On one of the morning panels, Alan Shen, VP of services at Unify Square, suggested that Microsoft’s renaming of Lync as Skype for Business might help the cause of those who want to replace desk phones. His reasoning: If people hear they’re getting Skype, they figure there’s no desk phone associated with that deployment. Nobody expects to pick up a receiver and punch buttons on a dial pad to make a “Skype” call. So at least when it comes to these sorts of intangible factors, just the Skype name is signaling to users that the way they make voice calls will change (if it hasn’t already).

Then there’s Cisco and the announcement that it's partnered with Apple to make its communications and collaboration gear support iOS devices more seamlessly and with better performance. In the course of making this announcement, Cisco collaboration chief Rowan Trollope (an Enterprise Connect 2016 keynoter) quoted a statistic that 30% of phone calls in offices are placed over mobile devices. Certainly if this partnership has real substance and commitment behind it from both parties, it should result in that 30% figure growing at many enterprises.

Finally, I want to point you toward a really great piece by UC analyst Dave Michels on SIP and SIP endpoints. Dave notes that, far from becoming a lowest common denominator for desk phones, SIP is enabling a new generation of devices that go well beyond the notion of SIP as (in Dave’s words) “the new analog.” Dave’s conclusion is that “SIP endpoints may not have lived up to all of the hype -- like the elimination of proprietary endpoints. But they have more or less lived up to reasonable expectations. SIP endpoints will generally work with most calling platforms, and their availability has led to a drop in endpoint cost.”

Those seem like the two crucial criteria for any desk phone to succeed in a world where desk phones are at least becoming less common: work with most calling platforms, and cost less than desk phones traditionally have. A phone that accomplishes those two things would actually be worth investing in for many enterprises that really do still require desk phones.

We all know how this song goes: The desk phone isn’t going away. Really. It’s not. There will continue to be a need for desk phones, and that means there’ll continue to be a need for desk phones that better match the needs that enterprises really have.

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