Tablets are making business deskphones a dying breed

March 30, 2012
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More than one in five enterprises have already deployed iPads or other tablets, and 78% plan to deploy them by the end of 2013, according to a recent Dimensional Research survey.

That trend is a major reason why the business deskphone is rapidly going the way of the typewriter.

Deskphone obsolescence isn’t a new trend. For example, in 2009, Gartner predicted that by 2011, North American enterprises would be supporting more mobile phones than deskphones.

As the installed base of tablets grows, it gives enterprises even more incentive to phase out deskphones. That’s because like smartphones, tablets increasingly have front-facing cameras, which work with apps to enable those devices to double as videoconferencing endpoints. That capability makes tablets and smartphones a viable alternative not only to voice-only deskphones, but also VoIP deskphones that support video calling and videoconferencing.

But there’s a caveat. To maximize savings, enterprises need to load those smartphones and tablets with softphone apps so voice and video calls can be routed over the company wireless LAN instead of the more expensive cellular network. That’s something CIOs and IT managers should keep in mind when developing and executing a deskphone-phaseout strategy.

Of course, not every employee will be equipped with a tablet or smartphone, but most office workers will have at least a PC, which is another nail in the deskphone’s coffin. Softphones enable enterprises to leverage their existing PCs to take advantage of VoIP’s CapEx and OpEx savings, as well as the productivity gains that come when every employee can participate in videoconferences right from their desktop.

Employees with PC-based softphones also are equipped to conduct voice and video calls, as well as multi-party videoconferences, with colleagues, clients and business partners who use their tablet or smartphone for those types of communications.

The ideal softphone app should allow employees to access their corporate PBX – regardless of whether it’s premise-based or cloud-based – and access features they’re accustomed to using on a deskphone, such as call hold/transfer, conferencing and extension dialing.

That flexibility is particularly valuable for enterprises with a significant number of employees who are on the road or telecommuting because the app effectively extends their PBX-based features to wherever they are.

The ideal voice/video softphone also should be as intuitive and easy-to-use as a traditional deskphone. If it isn’t, then employees will fall back to more expensive ways of communicating simply to avoid hassles such as figuring out how to connect to a videoconference or add a contact. Few enterprises can afford that kind of step back.

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