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The PBX Really is on the Way Out

The next Enterprise Connect that we run--Enterprise Connect Orlando 2015--will be the 25th anniversary of the show. The event launched with the name, "PBX in the 90s." Then it became "PBX 2000," then "VoiceCon," and now "Enterprise Connect." So "PBX" disappeared from our name a long time ago. And while PBXs aren't exactly going to be disappearing from Enterprise Connect--the installed base is huge and the need to incorporate that base going forward will remain compelling--nevertheless, PBXs have begun their slow fade.

We saw this a year ago, at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2013, when all 3 end users on our opening plenary session declared that they hoped not to buy another PBX as they migrate their communications systems forward. And this year, we got another significant piece of data showing the decline of interest in PBXs as a product.

Each year after Enterprise Connect concludes, we survey those who attended. We ask attendees what they thought of every aspect of the week, from the sessions to the show floor to the receptions. We also try to use the survey to get a sense of where their employers and their careers are at, and what technologies and vendors they're most interested in. This year's survey left us with a lot to digest, but one thing came through loud and clear to me: Our attendees just aren't as interested in PBXs as they used to be.

We asked, "Using a scale from 5 ("Very Interested") to 1 ("Not at All Interested"), please indicate your interest in each of the following topics and technologies," and then offered a long list of choices. When it came to ranking technologies as a "5"--most interested--"IP-PBX Systems" didn't crack the top 10. Here's what did, in rank order:

1. Unified Communications Systems and/or Services
2. Collaboration/Enterprise 2.0 Tools
3. Mobility Solutions
4. Videoconferencing/Telepresence
5. Conferencing Systems/Services
6. SIP
7. Contact Center Systems/Software
8. IP Phones--desktop and/or softphones
9. Enterprise Network/Communications Infrastructure
10. WebRTC

IP-PBX Systems came in 11th, just behind WebRTC. And if you combine the top 2 categories--the 4 and 5 rankings--IP-PBXs actually fall even further, to 13th place, behind all of the above except WebRTC, which now runs ever so slightly behind IP-PBX in this combined ranking. In addition, in the combined 4/5 rankings, IP-PBX also runs behind Network/Telecom Management Systems/Software, Voice over WLANs, and Wireless Devices.

Obviously, this doesn't mean that IP-PBXs are unimportant. As I said, they represent a huge embedded base and investment, and they still run the most fundamental and important communications at most enterprises. But they're not where the action is. Not by a long shot.

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