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April 2009 | Volume 12 / Number 4
Publishers Outlook

Plantronics Redefines Unified Communications Endpoints

Historically, people never expected great technical innovation when it came to headsets. Certainly wireless standards like DECT (initially championed by Siemens ) and Bluetooth have brought headsets into the tech space but for Plantronics (News - Alert), these were but a stepping stone, a means of tighter integration into the world of unified communications.

After 40 years of making industry-leading headsets, Plantronics has now upped the ante with a new product suite, Savi Office, designed to add intelligence, flexibility and ease-of-use to communications endpoints – it’s designed for office workers, providing them with a single wireless headset for desk phones and PC audio/softphone calls.

Additionally, the company announced Savi Go, their mobile solution designed to give professionals a simple-to-use wireless headset to connect to PCs and mobile phones.

Savi Office is a really interesting offering in that it allows the audio from IP communications calls coming from a computer to be mixed with the audio coming from a phone so you are able to conference a Skype (News - Alert) and PBX caller quite easily.

There’s support for wideband audio (otherwise referred to as HD voice) and the company tells me that, in informal tests, users don’t mind giving up the stereo headset experience for wideband in one ear. For those of you wanting the best of both worlds, stereo options should be available soon.

Plantronics has taken great pains to ensure that the accompanying software has tremendous flexibility, allowing custom ringtones and other options. In addition, IT departments can block users from making changes if they so desire. Moreover, Plantronics has made sure that headset bases are interchangeable so they can be standardized to minimize inventory needs. And in a nod to the changing workplace, where multiple people share a single workspace, the company has not put a limit on how many of these DECT (News - Alert)-based headsets can be connected to a single base. Moreover, the headsets allow impromptu conferencing with a maximum of four connected at once for training or other purposes.

There is also state-of-the-art power management: the headsets know how far they are from the base; when nearby they go into a low-power mode to save battery life and energy consumption. Another great feature is downloadable firmware that minimizes product returns if upgrades are needed for proper performance.

While Savi Office targets professionals who spend much of their time in the office, Savi Go is really focused on bridging the mobile and office worlds by interfacing seamlessly between mobile phones and softphones (a Bluetooth dongle is included as part of this solution). A smart move by the company is the longer microphone boom included in this solution which allows for better audio quality on the road, in a car, in a noisy hotel lobby, etc. In addition, Savi’s Class 1 Bluetooth technology ensures range of 200 feet instead of the typical 33-foot range of most Bluetooth devices. This solution’s first edition works seamlessly with Microsoft (News - Alert) OCS; a more “agnostic” solution will follow shortly.

My impression is that Plantronics has taken headsets to the next level with a blend of software and hardware innovation. Also, they have moved upmarket with these solutions and in doing so provide more flexibility for companies looking for the latest UC solutions to boost productivity and sound quality. Although the Savi products have noise cancelling microphones, to make a killer solution the company needs to add a noise-reducing binaural Bluetooth stereo option so people can ditch their single function noise-cancelling headphones once and for all. IT

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