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Softphones in a unified communications (UC) strategy? Who are UC market leaders?

How would softphone capability fit into an overall unified communications strategy? Who are the leaders in this segment of the market?

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Softphone capability is one method used by suppliers to facilitate mobility for an end user of voice infrastructure. The basic premise is to allow an end user to access communications resources remotely through their desk top computing equipment. The software turns the desktop into a phone console in many implementations allowing the end user to "connect" to their desk even though they are not really there. Remote workers or mobile workforce members are a large portion of the users of softphone capability. Having the capability allows users to gain access to central resources for voice messaging including in-bound and out-bound calling. Most organizations utilize softphone capability for productivity enhancement although there is some element of cost savings that can be achieved. With the advent of more advanced calling plans some of the cost advantages may be diminishing however.

In a study recently completed by TheInfoPro, Softphone capability ranked second among voice technologies being considered for use by enterprises in the near term as outlined in TheInfoPro's Heat Index of voice technologies. The Heat Index is an InfoPro proprietary measurement of end users' reported spending and implementation plans. Cisco, Avaya and Nortel are among the leaders in this segment of the market. According to the InfoPro study 34% of Fortune 1000 and midsized organizations have softphone capability in use, with an additional 36% having it under pilot programs or in near term or long term consideration.

Current softphone technology can be used as part of an overall unified communications strategy or as a point solution depending upon the capability of your current voice infrastructure.

This was first published in February 2007

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