Dave Michels Asks: The Desk Phone – Friend or Foe?

panasonics_ucmNow that Enterprise Connect 2012 has concluded Dave Michels poses a recurring question; The DeskPhone – Friend or Foe? Dave adds his observations of who makes the argument for the demise of the desk phone, noting quite correctly that each has their own horse in that race.

I find that the future of the desk phone should be considered in an application context. Soft phones are more appropriate in some roles than others. For example, in a call center soft phones are a compelling solution, saving money and adding flexibility in integration with call handling systems. Not that such integration is beyond the scope of hard phones, but it costs more in where hard phones are involved.

Every company will bring different sensibilities to such considerations. In the case of what I consider to be my beat, the home office, it may come down to personal preference. Myself I still generally prefer to use a desk phone, and being that I only need one or two, I don’t see any merit in buying cheap hardware.

Dave quite rightly points out that a migration to soft phones usually brings with it the requirement for some kind of audio hardware. Most will use a headset, but some will select desk-phone-like devices like Polycom’s CX Series hardware for Microsoft Lync. That begs the question, is the desk phone really gone if you’re using a desk-phone-look-alike that’s USB attached to your PC and soft phone?

As I have described on many occasions, I find great value in using a high-quality headset. It’s especially handy when the same headset can service multiple devices. For example, my Sennheiser DW Pro2 connects to my Polycom VVX Series desk phone and my PC. In truth, it sees most of its use with the VVX, only occasionally with a soft phone of any kind.

My desktop computer is a heavily burdened platform. Quite often it is so engaged in a variety of tasks that a soft phone suffers. That’s part of the appeal of the desk phone. As an appliance it’s performance is assured. It’s completely reliable, allowing me to stay productive, at least able to communicate, even as I wait for my computer to reboot.

My recent search for affordable wired headsets has been a bit frustrating. Good quality headsets seem to start in around the $50 range for USB models, considerably more for models with more flexible quick-release or RJ9 connect schemes. Dave also notes that headsets don’t usually last as long as desk phone, which has also been my experience.

Given the sum of these facts I suspect that reports of the death of the desk phone, even where applicable, are missing the point. While some may save a little by selecting soft phones over more traditional desk phones, in the end the total cost of ownership may well remain similar in the end.

The array of IP phones that inhabit my home and office are definitely friends. In fact, they’re more than that, they’re my allies in a constant fight to sustain productivity.