Snom Wants More

by Dave Michels

Snom is one of the new companies. Founded in 1996 in Germany it quickly established itself as a quality manufacturer of SIP phones. The market for SIP endpoints continues to grow; as does Snom’s portfolio.
This year, Snom has made some interesting product announcements – clearly an aggressive growth strategy with both logical products and few surprises.

1) PA1: This is a very clever and long overdue SIP paging device. The unit is powered by POE, includes an amp to drive one speaker (also has a line out for external amplification) and basically configures as a SIP phone with auto-answer. It also has two LAN ports for daisy chain configurations– and a DC-in for non POE deployments.

2) The M9 Dect Phone. Previously announced for Q410, but now expected in Q111 due to FCC problems. It still counts as a 2010 device because its shipping in Europe. This phone represents a huge upgrade over its toy-like M3. it has an improved keypad, supports G.722 HD audio, IPv6, intercom, 9 handsets per base station, and the ability to roam between base stations. Pricing has not been released, but there is a void in the SMB Dect phone market that the M3 failed to hit.
3) Snom 821 Phone and the Snom Vision sidecar. The 821 IP phone was introduced last June and Snom claims it to be a big hit with enterprise customers. The 821 offers a high resolution TFT 3.5” touch screen, GB networking, and available in white or black. The Snom Vision accessory adds 16 programmable keys and a 4.3” TFT color touch screen.

4) Microsoft OCS/Lync Support. This was an interesting stunt. With SIP phones, Snom’s biggest competitors are Polycom and Aastra. With Microsoft OCS/Lync – those two companies took the Microsoft partner route and offer Microsoft designed and licensed phones. Snom instead reverse engineered the unusual SIP implementation used by Microsoft and wrote a client for existing Snom phones  – at a far lower cost to the end user (and presumably to Snom).
821OCSIt wasn’t clear how Microsoft would react, but then last month, Snom announced that its 300 desktop phone was now tested and qualified for OCS R2 by Microsoft. That means Snom has the only phones that can be deployed in standard SIP or OCS configurations – though I am confused about Lync 2010 compatibility. Although Microsoft only endorsed the 300, Snom claims all of their phones run the same application. Shown is Snom’s implementation of its Communicator-like client on a SIP phone.

5) Snom One IP PBX. This one was a bit of a surprise. It is available in three versions:

  • Free for up to 10 users
  • Yellow $895 for up to 20 users
  • Blue $1495 unlimited users (unlimited?)
    Note: There are no feature differences between the packages.

The product is a software only solution designed for SIP phones and SIP trunks. Of course gateways could be used for traditional PTSN services. It is not an Asterisk or open source product. Snom One isn’t new, it came from PBXnSIP which shares some history with Snom. I have not tried the product before or spoken to any users. It has a reasonable list of features. snom One blue

  • Plug and Play with all Snom phones
  • Call recording
  • Simultaneous ringing of cell phones and Snom phones
  • Extension specific dial plan, time zone and language support
  • Multiple extension alias names, ANI assignments
  • Centralized Address Book
  • Hot desking
  • Voicemail/Exchange support
  • Multidomain
  • Web Interface
  • Shared Line emulation
  • Full feature set with every version (blue, yellow, free)

What makes the product unique is it can be loaded on a Linux, Windows, or MacOS computer and offers plug and play auto-configuration with Snom phones. I can’t think of any phone system that works with MacOS – it just might become a strong niche play for that market.
This system appears to be targeted directly at end users and the product is available from Snom’s website. Presumably there is a channel play too.

1-3 above are effectively new phones – and that’s what we expect from phone makers. Item 4 was a gutsy move that will probably offer a handsome return. Microsoft was the only major telecom vendor that didn’t support SIP phones. Snom figured out how to fix that, probably pissing off Microsoft, Polycom, and Aastra at the same time – but effectively improved the Lync solution and none of those companies were partners anyway. Aastra and Polycom both make quality SIP phones that they can’t (ethically or perhaps contractually) position for Lync users. Item 5, One IP PBX, is a head scratcher. It will make Snom a competitor to many of its partners. The threat to revenue seems far greater than the benefit. But the product and its pricing do seem worth a look.
Snom wants to be more than a maker of phones. SIP phones in particular can be viewed as accessories, Snom wants to be more than that. Can it?