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Plantronics' new hardware as a service UC devices compliment UCaaS

Plantronics is offering a hardware as a service program that can accompany provider's UCaaS offerings for small-to-midsized business customers.

Audio communications provider Plantronics has announced a new hardware as a service program to compliment unified communications as a service offerings for small-to-midsized businesses. The offering will bundle Plantronics UC hardware -- including desk phones and headsets -- with partners' cloud-based UC services. The program allows businesses to adopt unified communications while avoiding expensive, up-front device costs.

As a rule, cloud-based unified communications (UC) has been favored by SMBs who can't afford buying UC infrastructure. Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) doesn't typically include hardware -- such as desk phones, cameras and headsets -- which can bump up the cost of UC for budget-conscious businesses.

The operational cost model is a big driver for cloud adoption. However, many UCaaS services on the market today still require customers to buy equipment. Some vendors are catching on -- like Shoretel, which is now offering ShoreTel Sky, a cloud-based UC service that includes desk phones. "When you get into headsets and other accessories, these are capital expenses, and smaller businesses especially can't afford to buy all their users $200 headsets," said Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Mokena, Illinois-based Nemertes Research Group Inc. "It makes a lot of sense for customers to be able to buy a service that also has those kinds of costs built-in, just like how carriers bundle in the cost of a cell phone into their packages and contracts," he said.

"We are seeing within the SMB and midmarket space that it becomes a bit more of a challenge to pay for UC hardware up-front, and then still pay a [UCaaS] provider every month for the service on top of that," said Erna Arnesen vice president of channel and alliance marketing for Plantronics. "[Hardware as a service] programs like this are changing what UCaaS deployments are looking like, and making everything one monthly cost for businesses."

Hardware as a service: Lowering the bar to entry for UC, collaboration

Plantronics Device as a Service is a 12, 24, or 36-month payment program that partner providers can bundle into a cloud-based UC offering for SMBs with 100 to 2,500 users. The service will include Plantronics' Voyager, Savi, and Blackwire wired, wireless and Bluetooth headsets, as well as its Calisto desk phone line.

While provider partners can bundle the Plantronics Device as a Service offering with their own UCaaS services, these customers will still have access to Plantronics customer support for their hardware, Arnesen said. Businesses will have the use of the equipment for the length of their UCaaS agreement, and Plantronics is responsible for any equipment that fails or breaks, she said.

The Plantronics hardware as a service offering will also allow businesses to scale their usage up or down to align with business changes, and match the right devices to an employees' work style, the company said.

The Plantronics Device as a Service offering was first announced at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference this year. Because the hardware service will predominantly focus on headset sales, it's a good fit for Microsoft's softphone-centric UC strategy, Lazar said.

Technology leasing programs from vendors, service providers benefit end customers

Most pay-as-you-go technology leasing programs are following the subscription-based purchasing model that cloud services started. Enterprises are considering subscription-based purchasing in general, for more of their IT needs, said Tiffani Bova, research vice president of sales strategies and channel innovation for Stamford, Connecticut -based Gartner Inc.

As businesses -- including but not limited to SMBs -- look to acquire more IT solutions as-a-service, they are looking to their vendors and service providers for  bundled offerings. "Pre-integrated and seamless bundles … [can] optimize the customer buying and usage experience," Bova said.

"Cloud service providers … are having trouble closing some of their UCaaS deals because of the looming capex expense that businesses know they are also going to have to pay, and that becomes a major obstacle to adoption," Plantronics' Arnesen said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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