Business VoIP Featured Article

Enterprises Look to Displace Desktop Phones

July 19, 2011

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

It might come as a shock for enterprise information technology managers who have been used to thinking about “phones” as essential tools, but as use of mobile devices has grown, that cannot be a foundational assumption anymore, says Brownlee Thomas, Forrester Research analyst. 

Hardwired office desk top phones, some costing several hundred dollars apiece, and a very lucrative business for the likes of Cisco, Avaya and others, are on their last legs, said Jack Gold is the founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates.

They will follow the same path as landline phones have in residences, Gold argues, where already 25 percent of consumers in the United States have abandoned them for the convenience of their mobile phones.

For users in such situations, an employer is essentially paying for two voice connections when one would suffice. “Within two to three years, I expect 25 to 35 percent of business users to employ a mobile smart phone device exclusively and abandon use of a fixed line desk phone,” said Gold. 

“I have attended quite a few conferences in the past six months, and one recurring topic of conversation is: When will the desk phone die?” said Dave Michels. That doesn’t mean most enterprises are going to “all mobile,” or even “substantially mobile.”

But, as with entertainment video, there is an apparently growing sense that substitution is possible, and coming.

For desk-bound employees, the traditional desk phone is not dead so long as UC remains unavailable and phones are not fully depreciated. When there is a need to purchase a new desk phone, it is unlikely to be a traditional $500 to $600 desk phone.

The biggest potential changes might come for enterprises with a high percentage of remote and traveling workers, as you would guess.

There’s no way to know for sure what the opportunity is to replace desk phones until an enterprise can accurately compare calling patterns of high-volume mobile voice users’ use of desk phones and PC softphones. 

Some enterprises also are polling users to understand their preferences. “Anecdotally, we’ve heard that mobile users strongly prefer using their mobile device when possible, in particular when it’s a smartphone and they can click-to-call from their contact list.”

Perhaps ironically, at enterprises where IP telephony and unified communications are widely available, in some cases to unify communications across fixed and wireless domains, some enterprises now are trying to assess whether some desk phones and trunk lines can be removed or reduced, as employees shift communications to mobiles and soft clients.

That doesn’t necessarily mean desk phones are disposable in all situations, but you immediately will see that a desktop PC with softphone client and a user with a company-supplied mobile does represent some amount of potential “wasted resources,” depending on each user’s preferences. 

To be sure, some managers have a reason to expect a bit of savings after a full IP telephony and unified communications upgrade. “After an IPT implementation, it often takes at least a year before workstation-to-hard phone one-to-one (1:1) ratios and trunk lines are rationalized,” says Thomas.

But enterprise managers commonly say they are not sure precisely how much they are spending on mobile services, which often are bought locally, rather than centrally. 

That might come as a surprise, but Thomas says enterprise voice managers often say it is difficult to track voice costs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes voice costs are captured on expense reports, not directly from carrier bills, and there often are currency issues as well. 

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Gary Kim is a contributing editor for virtual-pbx. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell



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