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Will the dying desk phone reinvent itself as a 'multimedia device'?

ORLANDO – With the use of mobile devices and BYOD growing in the enterprise, will desk phones go the way of the rotary phone, or can they be reinvented for the future?

At Enterprise Connect 2014, signs appear to point toward reinvigorating the traditional desk phone. For desk phones to compete with soft phones and mobile devices, they must do more than just provide a voice service.

Of course, vendors weigh in with different points of view, which also depend on the devices their companies support.

“The hard phone right now wins, but it’s fading,” said Bill Woodall, Unify’s director of UC technology.

Microsoft Lync Product Manager Jamie Stark agreed, saying that while desk phone sales continue to increase, it isn’t a sign of the their sustainability. Instead, as enterprises trend toward mobility and BYOD, the market will start to see hard phone sales dropping, he said.

ShoreTel’s Senior Director of Product Marketing Bernard Gutnick agreed. “People do more work outside of the workplace — work is a function rather than a place,” he said. As a result, users are moving away from hard phones that require them to be tied to their desks.

But newer editions of desk phones are becoming what Craig Walker, senior director of communications business at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, called “multimedia devices” that offer features like instant message translation to voice or video through the hard phone.

“The concept is it isn’t just a phone number anymore, it is a single identification from a system,” Walker said.

As for hard phones going beyond voice services, Gutnick noted that ShoreTel announced a new line of desk phones, the 400 Series, that allow for integration with cloud applications.

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