Dave Michels wrote a thought provoking article over at NoJitter, where he came to the conclusion that the IP Phone has peaked:
The handwriting is on the wall, and rather than mourn the IP Phone, we should celebrate its short life. Perhaps “mourn” is too strong; its decline will be slow. Death in this industry is extremely slow–consider all the dead digital phones still freshly manufactured every day. So while death may be a point of contention or exaggeration, decline should not be. The IP phone peaked, and for the most part we missed the party.
What will replace the IP phone? We can replace it with either a software version of it or a mobile handset. As I know Dave’s opinion from his comment on a previous post of mine, he is more likely to lean towards idea of the mobile handset as the next step.
But let’s view these two options in more details and see how they work before we issue our hypothesis.
PCs to replace IP phones
Eric Krapf posted the following presentation by John Giese of Avaya titled Can a PC make a good phone:
The bottom line here is that the reason a pc can’t make a good phone is simply that the PC is unstable. While PCs make great machines to run applications, they aren’t robust enough for phone calling. At least that’s the main point made in the presentation.
While I do think this is a bit too harsh, it does happen to be my personal view as well. I have a Cisco IP phone on my desk at work, and its equivalent softphone on my laptop. I activate the “soft” version only when I’m travelling, and even then only when there are good reasons (long conference calls in the hotel room).
Personally I think that the desktop itself is a dying breed to begin with. Just look at two tidbits about Intel:
Rich Tehrani covered Intel’s earnings last quarter saying:
…recently the trend towards netbooks has shown the world that you can indeed sell antiquated hardware – you just have to run a less resource intensive OS on it such as Linux or Windows XP. The success of these netbooks in fact has been so great that it caused Intel to have earnings which far exceeded analysts’ estimates and while still down from last year, they included a quarter over quarter increase of 65% in Atom processors the chips which power many netbooks on the market. This amounts to $362 million for the second quarter.
And Stacey Higginbotham explained why Intel is buying WindRiver:
[...] Intel’s move isn’t only about growing into new markets, it’s also a sign that the computer is continuing to move further beyond the data center and desktops.
So computing is no longer the sole realm of the desktop, where soft clients live, but rather a place where consumer electronics rule. It will be interesting to watch this play between desktop software and consumer hardware in the coming years.
Mobiles to replace IP phones
Mobile handsets are considered by many to be a worthy replacement to the IP phone, especially if fixed-to-mobile convergence becomes a reality. However, a post by Irwin Lazar does a great job of shedding some light on l the adoption of mobile phones by IT organizations, based on a study conducted by Nemertes Research, he writes:
[...]we haven’t seen any great rush so far to provide mobile phones as the sole enterprise communications device. IT leaders tell us they are more focused right now on simply getting a handle on cell phone spending as they look for ways to reduce per-minute bills, renegotiate plans, or take advantage of minute pools.
Mobile phones might replace desk phones sometime in the future, but it won’t be anytime soon, so don’t do anything rash like throwing your IP phone, you have some time. As Dave Michels said, it takes a long time for technology to die out.