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Microsoft's VoiceCon Keynote
While Microsoft's keynote made a compelling argument to adopt their all software based IPT voice solution, they did not address how they would guarantee service levels.Gurdeep Singh Pall asked the audience; "If one had a limited IT budget and could only buy a desktop phone or a basic computer, which would they choose?" While the answer is obvious, the reason that companies still buy desktop phones is that they can guarantee levels of service such as availability and voice quality.
BSNF, BT, and others shared stories on why they selected Microsoft and the business value in doing so. Their points around TCO, tight integration with presence and collaboration tools, and the ease and speed of use made sense. What was missing was how they overcame traditional barriers to the mass adoption of the soft-phone. Have their business requirements changed so that the traditional barriers no longer apply? The traditional barriers include:
* 99.999% Availability--Dial tone is mission critical and must be there at all times, even when building power is lost.
* Guaranteeing Voice Quality--"Toll" quality voice all the time. Not cell phone quality.
When a user who has a soft-phone calls the help desk to complain about voice quality, how does the help desk go about isolating and fixing the problem? Sure, they can look at the RTP stats to see if it was a network problem, but if it's not, what is next? Microsoft has certified specific vendors' computers to support their soft-phone, but once users start loading software, how can they guarantee that XYZ will not interfere with the soft-phone? Supporting both the codec functionality and G.729, iLBC, or other compression requires a fair amount of the computer''s system resources. Will Skype, CTI, Google, or other voice applications interfere with the Microsoft soft-phone?
Yes, cell phones have reduced our expectations of phone quality, but our businesses still require "toll" quality, especially when they are talking with customers. And yes, the need for fancy phones with a color monitor and/or many buttons can go away as this functionality is moved to the desktop. But, an all software solution does not seem viable, yet....
After 25 years in this industry, am I too old-school? Typically, I like to be N-1 in technology and not put the business at risk with the latest and greatest. The plan is to do the basics very well before adding the bells and whistles. But, if after a few more VoiceCons, if I hear that the early adopters are not experiencing any service level problems and the number of voice related tickets coming into the help desk have gone down, then I may reconsider.
BTW--I thought Gurdeep Singh Pall had a great keynote presentation. The right balance of technology, foresight, business value, success stories, and demonstrations along with some humor to keep it entertaining. Great job! While I did not drink all the "Kool-Aid," I am convinced that Microsoft is a serious contender in the IP Telephony space. Every technology and product has its place and time.
What do you think? Are you ready to bet your career on an all software solution?