Is the Death of the Handset Near?

By Robin Gareiss
On May 16, 2012
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Increasingly, IT staffs are evaluating the replacement of hardphones with softphones or mobile devices—a hot at this week’s Interop conference in Las Vegas, where I moderated a lively session on “Enabling Endpoints for Collaboration: Hardphones, Softphones, Mobile Phones.”

We do not believe companies will completely eliminate all handsets. Minimally, they need them at receptionist desks, in conference rooms, and in certain facilities, such as elevators and hotel rooms. In other cases, employees simply prefer handsets. Or,  an organization needs the sound quality, reliability, or speakerphone capability of a handset.

We expect organizations to focus on delivering collaborative applications to a selected endpoint—usually a smartphone. In 34% of companies, more than 50% of their employees already have mobile devices for work purposes, and 73% plan to add increase the number of users by 2012. Nearly 80% of companies have integrated mobile devices with UC applications, are planning to, or are evaluating the benefits. Similarly, 75% are using, evaluating, or planning to use IP softphones.

The bottom line: IT staffs must evaluate what their user population really needs, rather than automatically replacing TDM handsets with IP handsets. How? By working with business units to develop user profiles. Nemertes recommends organizations create five to eight profiles that define the IT requirements corresponding to the work functions. One of those requirements is the appropriate endpoint(s) for employees in each profile.

One of the challenges, though, is that vendors—or their sales organizations and channels—are not aligned with this way of thinking. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. The product marketing folks and executives know what to do, but that message is lost between them and the partners on the streets.

The problem is they continue to be incented to sell capital. They know how to make money selling boxes—whether switches, servers, routers, or phones. So, it’s no wonder the first question they ask when discussing IP telephony implementations is: “How many handsets to you have now?” And they quickly calculate a like-for-like replacement. Increasingly, though, the telecom staff wants to evaluate whether to replace some of the hardphones with mobile devices or softphones.

The message to vendor manufacturers and their channels: Rethink they way you sell endpoints. Handsets are only part of a multi-faceted equation that includes softphones, smartphones, headsets, and tablets. Closing this gap will result in more satisfied customers who increasingly view their channels as their partners.






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