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Hold the phone

Despite mobile alternatives, demand for deskphones remains stable reports Tayla Ansell

deskphones have evolved in response to competition from newer forms of communication, such as smartphones
Deskphones have evolved in response to competition from newer forms of communication, such as smartphones

The deskphone has long been a staple of the office desk. Today there are numerous alternative methods of communication and yet the deskphone hasn’t disappeared.

Research and consulting company Frost & Sullivan has monitored the shipment of IP desktop phones on a yearly basis and in 2015 they forecast that while growth rates will be lower than in previous years, growth is still expected over the next 10 years. So what is the reason behind the deskphone’s resilience?

Snom Technology AG, a developer of business IP telephones, has just experienced its best quarter in two years. Head of UK Sales Alison Tetlow says the biggest influence on market demand has been the development of VoIP services and hosted and cloud-based delivery.

“This model has brought IP Telephony within the scope of even the smallest business enabling them to benefit from the cost and feature-rich aspects of IP Telephony without the need for a substantial investment,” she said.

Steve Watts, general manager of Yealink UK, also singles out cloud adoption as the key driver for sales of IP deskphones.
He said: “SMEs recognise the benefits of flexible and scalable cloud solutions, which can be financed through operational rather than capital expenditure budgets. Removing the upfront investment associated with acquiring a traditional telephone system and spreading the cost over a three- or five-year term provides businesses with considerable cashflow benefits. It is this significant move towards cloud services that is having such a positive impact on the growing IP deskphone market.”

Ron Cottaar, marketing director EMEA at Gigaset Pro, has also seen growth in the IP phone market. However, he suggests that overall sales growth is now slowing. “Against some expectations, overall sales of deskphones are stable with IP phone sales showing growth. However the sales cycle is not peaking at the moment due to the long ownership period and maturity of the product category. Competition from trends like BYOD and smartphones has also slowed down sales growth,” he said.

Changing expectations
As Cottaar touches upon, recent work trends are challenging the position of the trusty deskphone. Millennials are used to communicating via mobile devices, email, social media and instant messaging and expect to be able to do so at work too. On top of this, the rise in flexible working means more employees are using their own mobile devices for work purposes both in and out of the office.

This competition is likely to get fiercer as true digital natives, possibly with little or no experience of a deskphone, enter the workforce. Only 2% of teenagers use a landline more than once a month, preferring text, video and face-to-face communication, according to a new study by business communications provider Fuze.

The App Generation report, based on surveys of 5,000 workers across Europe and 2,500 young people aged 15-18 (the app generation), reveals a big difference in attitudes to desk phones and smartphones amongst teenagers and today’s workers. Teenagers put the smartphone in fourth place on a a list of ‘essential items for work’, whereas adult workers put it in seventh place. In contrast, the deskphone is a Top Five tool for current workers, but barely makes the top ten for teenagers, who regard even a stapler as more essential.

Reliable communications
Despite the range of communication options available and the changing expectations of younger workers, for now at least the deskphone remains a reliable office tool. According to Martin Bitzinger, general manager enterprise at Mitel, the deskphone’s simplicity is a key strength.
“A deskphone is always there, ready to use and working, and provides instant connectivity and uncompromised audio quality. No other solution to date has matched the simplicity and ergonomics of the deskphone for its use case. You can just sit at your desk and press one button and connect without worrying about things like signal strength,” he said.

For Gigaset Pro’s Cottaar another benefit is the level of mass adoption and commonality. “There are many great ways to communicate, from Instant Messages to video chat, but the telephone call and deskphone is still the most common baseline method that all businesses maintain…[and] still the device of choice for longer duration or calls where reliability and voice quality is paramount.”

Snom’s Tetlow adds that deskphones have an emotional draw. “The new communication methods are exciting and useful and valuable business tools. However, the fact remains that when things are urgent, dangerous or critical, when intense emotions are involved and we are angry or frustrated, we immediately revert to the use of telephony and voice communications.”

She added: “Direct voice communication increases understanding and encourages empathy. There is a connection. So in human terms there is inspiration to take action and, in business terms, use of the telephone increases the personal relationships that inspire and motivate business.”

Ring the changes
That said, deskphones have clearly evolved in response to competition from newer forms of communication, such as smartphones and the trend towards more flexible working, as Mitel’s. Bitzinger explains. “A deskphone now is a smart device,” he said. “There are multiple features today that weren’t available on early IP phones. Most significantly, we have advanced network power and processor capabilities that weren’t there before, as well as seamless integration with other devices.”

He added that modern IP deskphones and media phones have built-in UC features that provide users with mobile, collaboration and video capabilities, as well as smartphone integration. For this reason, the smartphone doesn’t have to be seen as a replacement for the deskphone. “Your smartphone can be integrated with your deskphone so that you can use the latter’s high quality audio as a speaker phone for your smartphone, or transfer a call from desk phone to smartphone seamlessly if leaving the office,” he said.

The touchscreen display is another popular addition to the deskphone, creating an easy and familiar interface. Some models are also customisable and enable the use of applications.
Earlier this year, for example, Snom unveiled a developer platform,, which allows developers to create and integrate applications for compatible Snom desk telephones. And Yealink’s latest range incorporates an interface emulating the Skype for Business experience that users who have used the application before will already be familiar with.
Yealink UK’s Watts see this as the next big step. “Video, Wifi and Bluetooth are fast becoming standard features whilst the rapid adoption of Skype for Business following its acquisition and subsequent promotion by Microsoft is going to be the next major market development,” he said.

Deskphones aren’t disappearing but it seems they are changing to future-proof and stay relevant. It remains to be seen whether the next generation of workers will pick up the phone or ditch it for their own devices, but for now the IP deskphone still has a place on the office desk.

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