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Are IP Phones Doomed?

The trusty old telephone on your desk is getting a lot of attention lately. The various blog and on-line magazines have seen plenty of discussion and debate on the future of IP Phones.  Some have declared them “doomed to the evolutionary dustbin” – an easy declaration to make, but highly unlikely.  Heck, there are still fax machines in many offices!

Nortel PhoneThe desk phone of old was a universal “Swiss army knife” of communications.  It did a lot of things, but none of them really well. A side effect of the vertical integration and the silos created by the PBX manufacturers, they had to build a lot of the same thing to maximize profits (irrespective of whether it was the right thing for the right job).

Open standards and SIP have dramatically changed the IP Phone – opening the door for purpose-built IP Phones that better fit the task.   From hand-held wireless and ruggedized devices designed for warehouse workers to IP Phones for the contact center, it seems that the IP Phone is actually evolving to a purpose-built communications-enabled desktop appliance.  Darwin would be proud.

No business sector is benefitting better from the evolution of the IP Phone than the contact center with new devices that are designed from the ground-up for the highly productive contact center agent. 

Interactive Intelligence SIP Station 2

An excellent example is the Interaction SIP Station™, announced in 2013 and offered by Interactive Intelligence as part of their CIC contact center solution.  The SIP Station was the brainchild of a visit to a contact center that had been using traditional IP Phones on the agent desktop, but because of confusion on what buttons the agent was allowed to press, someone had created a cardboard cover for the keypad that exposed only those buttons the agent was allowed to use.   Answer, hang-up, volume up, volume down and help were the only buttons the agent needed - the rest were hidden by the cardboard cover.  The SIP Station puts those limited functions on a cost-optimized appliance and headset that takes up far less desk space than a traditional IP Phone.  More recently, Interactive Intelligence showed their new second-generation SIP Station IP Phone device that adds a number keypad and WebRTC capabilities, needed for their new PureCloud contact center offering.

AudioCodes 440HD IP PhoneOther examples of the evolving IP Phone come from the Unified Communications space with new IP Phones like the AudioCodes 400HD series devices, designed to be an adjunct to the UC desktop client, allowing users to answer and make calls without ALT-TABing their way back to the client and loosing valuable screen desktop space.  Built-in presence LEDs with dynamic “buddy list” displays and high-quality speaker phone features improve productivity while keeping the familiar user experience of a desktop phone.  Desktop integration with “Better Together over Ethernet” for Microsoft Lync make call handling seamless whether done from the client software or the desktop IP Phone.

With greater productivity and better costs, I believe the evolving IP Phone has a long and healthy future ahead, but as a purpose-built desktop appliance, not the phone of the past.  Evolution is important – Darwin just didn’t realize his theory applied to phones too.

Share your comments with Alan at alan.percy@audiocodes.com or at @AlanDPercy on Twitter.



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Alan Percy
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