Polycom SoundPoint IP 550 / IP 650 Reviewed

Productivity Suite

With the release of v3.0 firmware, Polycom has also started to offer an optional software bundle called the Productivity Suite for SoundPoint IP Phones. This software, which costs around $12 per phone, provides five applications to enhance the phones’ basic capabilities.

  • Visual Conference Management
  • Local Call Recording
  • Corporate Directory Access (LDAP)
  • Third Party Call Control
  • Voice Quality Monitoring

Most business class phones can perform an on-phone three-way conference, combining two remote parties and yourself. However, the 550 and 650 can perform four-way conferences (you plus three remote callers). This apparently simple extension of the phones’ capabilities is significant, since larger conferences can be handled before you need to use an external conference bridge.

The Visual Conference Management application provides a very intuitive way to establish conferences and add a third or fourth party to an existing call. It can also drop a caller from a conference, and mute or unmute each party. Throughout the conference, the LCD display indicates the status of each caller in a simple, easily understood manner (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Three way conference using Visual Conference Management
Figure 5: Conference Management Menu

Over the review period, the Local Call Recording feature on the IP650 (not available on the 550) also proved very handy. Upon insertion of a USB key, the phone acknowledges the key then adds a display to indicate the amount of record time available (Figure 6). I could record the current call or conference to a WAV file with only two button presses.

Figure 6: Call recording feature activated
Figure 6: Call recording feature activated

Even for home office use, this feature alone can justify the cost of the IP650. For example, if you are a podcaster conducting telephone interviews, then the ability to easily record a call to a USB stick in a readily accessible format is simply outstanding. The phone did prove to be picky about the USB keys it would accept. But Polycom has a listing of known compatible USB memory keys.

While extremely convenient, this call recording feature should be used with care as recording a conversation without the other parties knowledge is illegal in many jurisdictions.

The Corporate Directory Access (LDAP) feature supports integration with a master corporate contact directory, including Microsoft Active Directory. When the LDAP directory is used, the domain administrator can define the contacts that are exposed to each user.

The Third Party Call Control feature allows external systems to interrogate the phone for its state, and invoke various functions via the uaCSTA protocol. This allows the phones to be integrated into unified communications solutions, including Microsoft’s Office Communication Server.

Though the productivity suite is offered for all models in the SoundPoint range, not all of the productivity applications are available on every model. For example, local call recording is only supported on the IP650 since only that model has the required USB port.

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