Desk Phones Might Not Be Dead Yet

Only 20 percent of phone systems have gone to VoIP, meaning that there is still a massive opportunity for vendors and partners.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

January 18, 2017

4 Min Read
Desk Phones Might Not Be Dead Yet

51a8faf571484644b351c79a37f30c3c.jpgDo desk phones have a place in the increasingly mobility-friendly world of business?

Analysts and a VoIP provider say yes — with a provision.

Windstream-owned Allworx has announced a new line of phones that it says will fit in well in a corporate environment where mobile devices are being used more and more for work activities.

8ec3b6c3f11844fda2c634765e4e43ca.jpgThe Allworx Verge IP phone line is “mobile-first,” the result of the company wrestling with the question of how desk phones stay relevant in the age of cellphones.

“We talked with a lot of our partners. We went out and examined usage of systems,” said David Plakosh, general manager and chief technology officer. “Bottom line is, we came up with a thesis that in order for desk phones to be relevant in the future, they must be better integrated with mobile devices and software applications.”

That integration includes real-time syncing between the IP phones and employees’ mobile devices using Allworx’ updated Reach application for iOS and Android. Workers can link the desk phone with Microsoft Outlook to obtain access to contacts. The phone line features call handoff from the mobile device to the desk phone and the ability to remotely control the Verge IP phone using a mobile device.{ad}

Plakosh says the technology must adjust so that users don’t have to pick between mobile phones and desk phones.

“Mobile phones and desk phones are in conflict,” he said. “On one hand, users have a passion for their mobile device. They love the ease of use of their mobile device. They love not being tethered to their desk. They love having access to all their contacts. But on the other hand, their desk phones have better audio quality and provide business-phone system features.”

Steve Chu, director of TeraNova Consulting Group, says VoIP desktop phones are a growing market, as customers like the cost reduction.

“I think this whole market space is exploding worldwide,” he told Channel Partners. “There’s a big market to replace your traditional analog phone systems with VoIP.”

He says only 20 percent of phone systems have gone to VoIP, meaning that there is still a massive opportunity for vendors and partners. But he added that he hasn’t seen VoIP vendors implement many new technological features in recent years.

“What they have added is sexy features like color screens, bigger screens, some graphics, touchscreens. From a system-user point of view, those are superficial functions, and I’m not quite sure how …

… that’s going to play when all these vendors put out all these phones that have all these nice-to-have, sexy features but they don’t really add to the functionality of the system,” he said.

There’s also the factor of millennial workers who prefer new types of communication.

“They’re so used to using things like Skype, Messenger, all of these social-media platforms where they can interact with each other in every way except actually talk to each other,” Chu said. “The corporate versions of those types of services are now proliferating.”

Tim Banting, an analyst with Current Analysis, notes the move in business toward collaboration applications like Slack and Cisco Spark.

“Some of these solutions combine synchronous communications (e.g. voice, video, conferencing, chat) and asynchronous collaboration (e.g. file storage and sharing) in one solution,” he said. “Consequently, this helps distributed teams (which can incorporate internal personnel and external suppliers, partners and temporary staff) to be more productive regardless of geography or time zone.”

Allworx commissioned an independent study for its product release to ask employees how they view mobile devices and desk phones. More than half of the employees (54 percent) regularly use their desk phones, and more than one-third (36 percent) regularly make work calls with their mobile phones — while sitting at their desk.

Plakosh said businesses will ultimately always need the business features and higher audio quality of desk phones. So partners who sell the phone systems breathe a sigh of relief.

“Businesses need those features. They may not need all of them,” he said. “They need a subset of them, and the reseller has to guide their sales presentation based on the sales interview that they have with their end customer and understand their needs.”

But it is safe to say there is a consensus that the increasingly mobile-first world is going to challenge office phones to adapt.

“If the desk phone does not play nice with mobile devices, users will stop using it,” said Annie Ahari, Allworx’s director of marketing.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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