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June 29, 2012

Desktop IP Phones Need a Refresh

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

Two recent press releases have convinced me that desktop handset manufacturers need a good kick in the pants. RCA is making/selling IP and an Android (News - Alert) touchscreen desktop "phone" and Grandstream announced a DECT phone that doesn't support CAT-iq.  

If designers don't get some fire in their bellies, a lot of name brands are going to start losing market share in short order.

Once upon a time, RCA stood for quality products. Now, it's the lower-end off-the-shelf solution at Best Buy and other big box stores.  The company released a trio of VoIP handsets for the SMB market at the CEA Lines Shows this week, with the "flagship" IP 150 featuring an Android 7 inch touchscreen handset capable of managing up to six phone lines for a suggested retail price of $449, the three-line $149 IP 120 desk phone and the two line IP 110 for $139 suggested retail. 

All the phones support HD voice, have a full-duplex speaker phone, a visual ringer and customizable ringtones.

There are a number of Android-based touchscreen desktop phones, including the Panasonic KX-UT670 and the Cloud Telecomputer Glass Platform. Glass has been kicking around since 2009 and numerous consumer manufacturers are adding Android to their home offerings. RCA isn't adding much to the party, other than an entry-level option for customers to choose from.

In the wireless space, CableLabs (News - Alert), Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom lined up behind CAT-iq as the standard for DECT. The 1.0 standard includes basic telephony and HD voice support while the 2.0 revision includes the standardized call handling features you'd expect from a wired phone, such as caller ID, call forward and three-way calling. 

Grandstream's initial introduction of a DECT (News - Alert) phone without CAT-iq 2.0 support greatly puzzles me, especially since there are numerous Asian manufacturers already cranking out CAT-iq 2.0 white-label handsets for Europe. A Grandstream spokesperson says CAT-iq will be supported in future products, but that leaves them behind the curve in international markets.

And don't even get me started about handset color scheme. It's all grey and black plastic with some shiny metal, with more hip manufacturers substituting white plastic for the psuedo-Apple look.

But the underlying functionality is all the same. It’s no wonder why Digium – home of the Asterisk telephony platform – has started making its own phones with a JavaScript API to let developers build customized applications. 

The Invoxia NVX 610 is a beautiful speakerphone for built for Apple iFamily device users, with clean lines, solid software integration between Apple iOS and the hardware. Why can't hardware manufacturers build something like Invoxia's high-end speakerphone/docking station for Android smartphone and tablet users?

It wouldn't surprise me if a couple of the names we're familiar with in the business IP phone community, like AudioCodes (News - Alert) and snom, are looking at what Microsoft has done with the Surface Tablet and wondering if they should build handsets based on Windows 8 RT, touchscreen interfaces with the look of a smartphone combine with tighter integration with Microsoft products.  

Certainly Microsoft has shown it can pull a hardware surprise out of its hat with its tablet offering.   A Microsoft desktop phone based on Windows 8 is as plausible as Microsoft building its own smartphone at this point in time. 

To find out more about Grandstream Networks visit the company at ITEXPO West 2012. To be held Oct. 2-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, ITEXPO (News - Alert) is the world’s premier IP communications event.  Visit Grandstream Networks in booth # 608. For more information on ITEXPO West 2012 click here.




Edited by Braden Becker
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