Over at No Jitter I did a feature on the beginning of the end of the IP Phone, and why I think 2008 will be its high mark in terms of sales.
I need to address some immediate confusion – while I predict the phone to decline, I am not predicting the demise of the PBX. I just see the intelligence of the solution moving off the desktop.
The computer desktop is becoming a viable alternative in terms of features and user acceptance. The cell phones are becoming much more feature rich, much more personal, and integrating their way into the PBX. Effectively, the IP phone is getting squeezed in the middle.
Throw in a recession, the cost of IP phones, the functionality of IP phones, the complexity of them, and their value becomes questionable.
Plus, the alternatives to the IP phones are increasing. One alternative is the long dead digital phone which is effectively the same thing, same value, for less money. Traditionally, IP PBXs were only positioned as legacy replacement, but increasingly they are positioning themselves as a way to extend the life of the legacy phone system. Rather than reuse old digital phones with a gateway approach (adding hardware), extend legacy phone systems with a software approach.
Another alternative is how we use IP phones – hotelling lets one phone serve many users. This is an important capability as remote workers and shared desktops at the office are increasing. One comment from a reader suggested the concept of hotelling be applied to soft phones. So when a user is not logged in to the desktop computer, its soft-phone can still be used as a courtesy phone. I like that model.
But this aspect (the user aspect) of telecom changes very slowly. Nobody is taking my IP phone away today. You’ll need to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Please check out the feature at No Jitter. My favorite part is the pop quiz on features – PBX phone vs. cell phone.
Eric Krapf wrote a complementary piece on this topic in a NoJitter newsletter. Take a look here.