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Future of Phones Not in Question (Just Yet)

I participated in a VoiceCon summit session earlier this week to discuss the future of desktop telephone instruments. I didn't disagree with the position that fellow-panelist David Michels argued in favor of mobile smartphones and PC client softphones, but I strongly believe the demise of desktop telephone instruments is too far in the future to worry about today or tomorrow. Many CIOs may want to junk desktop telephones as unnecessary desk clutter, but users are holding on tight to what they have today and want for tomorrow. This is just another case of a high level bureaucrat being out of touch with their constituency.I would like to share a PPT slide I included in my market review session. It is my updated forecast of endpoint shipments behind a premises telephony system. Please note that the total number of annual endpoint shipments is greater than system subscribers, because a growing number of station users will have multiple endpoint devices. What is newsworthy about the forecast is the gradual leveling off and eventual decline of desktop telephone instruments as we now know them. The data is for the North America market, only, and includes shipments for KTS/Hybrid and PBX systems.

It is very interesting that when the future of the desktop telephone instrument is in question that leading telephony system suppliers continue to announce new models for existing product lines and/or newer generation models. Earlier this year Avaya, Nortel, and Mitel introduced new color display models to their already large family of IP telephones and Siemens introduced new entry level OpenStage models. Rumor has it that Cisco will be announcing a new generation of advanced IP telephone instruments at next week's Collaboration launch. I am sure that the new phones are in response to customer needs and demand, because it requires a major investment on behalf of the system supplier to design, develop, manufacture, market, sell, and support.

During the market review session I also made a bold prediction that mobile smartphones will be the primary interface to a customer's communications system by the beginning of the following decade (2020). Truth be told, the prediction is not that bold, because the ongoing shift from wired to wireless communications and computing is fact of life. We are a highly mobile society and being tethered to a wired desktop is quickly becoming an artifact of the 20th century.