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Panasonic Launches NCP 500/1000

I attended the launch of Panasonic's new IPT product the NCP 500 and 1000 (8-1024 extensions) held in Manhattan. Ken Yamashita, Managing Director of Panasonic's Communications Group spoke at the event and said, "Panasonic is the number 1 world leader in the SMB space." Bill Taylor, VP/General Manager of Panasonic's Communications Solutions Group made some key points about the SMB telephony market:* The 25 million SMBs in the U.S.A. together account for what would be the 3rd largest economy in the world,

* 65% of the SMBs expect growth over last year in spite of the current economic downturn,

William Stofega, VoIP Analyst with IDC, also spoke and noted that:

* The SMB market is underserved,

* SMBs want solutions, not templates,

* 68% of these customers don't understand VoIP

During the past several years I've been gung-ho on Hybrid IPT solutions. Until now, I've favored them over "pure" IPT. My foot dragging I believe, has paid off.

The NCP incorporates all the same features of its predecessors, the KX-TDA and KX-TDE systems: Door phones, gate and door openers, DECT, 2500 (SLT) set support, digital proprietary telephone support and all the typical voice features (hundreds) found in a TDM solution.

The NCP doesn't use hardware gateways -just licenses. The interface to the LAN is a 10/100 Mbps connection built onto the processor card. So I can get the hundreds of voice features found in TDM boxes that pure IP-PBX manufacturers have blown off in the past as unnecessary. So the news is: Yes You Can Have It All. (All = the former telephony features)

For the hotel/motel operators, Panasonic has partnered with DuVoice of Kirkland, WA to deliver an integrated Inn Desk Hotel/Motel package that includes guest check in/check out, call accounting features, wake-up call and Property Management Systems (PMS) integration. Panasonic's ACD line includes the KX-NCV200 that can expand with Poltys CCPRO and other call center applications. Then, Control4 provides home, office, and hospitality suite automation including integration to the NCP. Larger commercial automation applications are handled with Johnson Controls. Broadvox is the SIP provider that Panasonic has certified with to provide SIP trunking solutions. Panasonic also has in place a National Account Hotline: 1-866-941-4287 (1-866-941-4BTS Business Telephone Solutions).

Now as for the NCP systems, the form factor is fitting for that IT look. There's attention to detail and 3 key little things--so little that most just won't notice. The SD card won't be compromised by prying fingers; the AC power cord shouldn't get disconnected, and the internal fans are field replaceable. But instead of telling you what the NCP has and can do, let me tell you what I found missing:

* Fully functional in-skin Automated Attendant/Voice Mail

* Dual T1/PRI cards

* Multiple Music-on-Hold ports for the 8 tenants

* Licensing & Station (hardware & directory) reports

Now, instead of the in-skin AA/Voice Mail, I'd even settle for a small form factor AA/Voice Mail system that fits into a 19 inch rack. The current KX-TVA50, KX-TVA200, KX-NCV200 need to get off the plywood and onto the rack.

Most of the "pure IP-PBX" manufacturers can't lay claim to the full menu of traditional features, and Cisco is too overly complicated for the SMB/E if you consider the report from IDC (see William Stofega's comments above) and understand how SMBs operate and function on a daily basis. I don't believe and never have that abandoning tried and true features to give way to advanced features should weigh as an offset. I want it all and users including me will always demand more. The phones BTW, aren't ugly either.