Dave Michels
Dave Michels is a Principal Analyst at TalkingPointz. His unique perspective on unified communications comes from a career involving telecommunications...
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Dave Michels | March 13, 2014 |



BYODE If BYOD is a desired characteristic for mobile devices, why are desktop endpoints still an IT decision? Why not BYODE, as in Bring Your Own Desktop Endpoint?

If BYOD is a desired characteristic for mobile devices, why are desktop endpoints still an IT decision? Why not BYODE, as in Bring Your Own Desktop Endpoint?

My first corporate employer provided all employees a desktop analog push-button phone. It was a bit dated even then, but at least it wasn't rotary. It also had a little flashing-light device taped on the top that via a line cord pass-through provided voicemail indication. Voicemail was the predominant messaging solution at the time, as email clients were not yet widespread.

Being the consummate telecom professional that I was and am, I chose to raise my telephony bar and bought a nicer desktop phone from a local retailer. It was a speakerphone with 20 pre-set speed-dials. I stuck-on the voicemail light and immediately benefited with increased productivity. I could, for example, address and forward voicemails faster than anyone thanks to my 5-digit speed-dials.

This was all possible because analog endpoints are universally compatible. In hindsight I was on the forefront of what's now known as consumerization and bring your own device (BYOD). Today, we live in a mobile-first world, so BYOD refers to mobile phones instead of desktop endpoints.

If BYOD is a desired characteristic for mobile devices, why are desktop endpoints still an IT decision? Why not BYODE, as in Bring Your Own Desktop Endpoint?

Soft phones are perceived as cheaper and more powerful, but hard phones are more reliable and familiar. If IT decides against hard phones, the user doesn't really have a choice. However, users do generally have a choice when it comes to mobile clients.

Modern UC mobile apps are impressive. So impressive that in addition to choosing from among rich features, end-users can easily and independently obtain and configure them. Think about that for a moment--in most cases, a mobile client can be obtained from a third-party distributor (application store), to run on a third-party branded device, running a third-party operating system, and connected to the UC service over third-party networks. This can be done with greater installation and configuration ease than that of a purpose-built UC endpoint connecting to the same-brand UC server directly connected over a local network.

The explanation: Enterprise desktop phones come from a period when only experts could deploy them. The technology and expectations are different in the mobile space, but with only a few exceptions, desktop endpoints remain stuck in a now-obsolete model. It is one of the factors contributing to the decline of hard phones.

Typically, all that is required to install a mobile client is the telephone number and voicemail PIN. Desktops are not so easy, and they are usually installed and configured by IT. The excuses are rampant and include:

* Systems need to know the device model for proper formatting of the screen and button enablement (oddly, multiple screen sizes are supported on mobile devices)
* Hard phones need to be properly provisioned for the network (IP phones usually need basic network information, even though most mobile devices don't)
* Needs to be labeled (paper labels are still common)
* Need the MAC address (many comms servers use the esoteric MAC as an identifier)

There's no reason the local hard phone shouldn't be as easy (or easier) to install than a mobile client--without support or effort from IT. The only exceptions might be a few practical limitations, such as DHCP; also, user-based licensing needs to be in place.

What Would Need to Change for This to Become a Reality?
First, communication managers (i.e., the servers) need to be more intelligent about sensing device types. This should be simple in a proprietary mode--which is where the industry continues to thrive. The SIP alternative isn't very robust, and most enterprise SIP phones utilize proprietary extensions. Additionally, SIP endpoints are problematic when it comes to provisioning and displaying content. The protocol is fine for basic audio signaling, which is why many SIP endpoints are restricted to the very limited (analog-like) features.

Proprietary phones are more expensive due to lower manufacturing runs and closed distribution. As much as the major UC vendors love to proclaim themselves software companies, most still sell their own phones. This is lucrative revenue--for both the manufacturer and its channel partners. The margin requirements of this legacy B2B channel are much higher than Internet and mass retail B2C channels. Even if an employee wanted to buy his or her own IP endpoint, it is not a simple (or inexpensive) task.

IP phones can be plug-n-play, but they tend to use proprietary elements. For example, both Digium and Microsoft offer simplified provisioning. End users in these environments could, in theory, obtain their own phone and connect it. The challenges associated with the provisioning of PC softphones are similar to hard phones. CounterPath just announced a new enterprise solution that preconfigures deployments of its Bria client via a centralized server. However, it still requires IT administrators to initially license and preconfigure.

The idea of BYODE makes a lot of sense to me, but it may be too late. SIP evolution for endpoints seems stalled, and interest in hard phones is waning. I believe a hard phone resurgence would be possible if they were inexpensively available at the supermarket.

I will be moderating a panel on the demise (or not) of hard phones at Enterprise Connect with representatives from Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, ShoreTel, Microsoft, and Unify at 2 PM on Monday, March 17. I hope you can join me.

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