Davidoff777 - Fotolia

Panasonic adds UC features to traditional telephones

Panasonic released a beefed-up desk phone that includes messaging and video conferencing, indicating the vendor is preparing for SMBs to adopt more UC features over the next few years.

Panasonic Corp. has added more unified communications capabilities, such as video conferencing and messaging, to its desk phones geared toward SMBs, which are expected to increase spending on UC products over the next few years.

Last week, Panasonic added UC functionalities to the KX-NS700G server that drives its telephone system. The server costs $2,089.

The UC features in the KX-NS700G include linking a user's mobile and desktop phones. The server also features instant messaging, a high-definition camera for video conferencing and a speakerphone for audio. The server lets people join a video conference through a Web browser. Panasonic is known for selling its telephony line to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which still use traditional phones for daily work, according to Jon Arnold, a Toronto-based independent analyst.

The Panasonic telephone server with UC features includes the "core of what you need to make it more than just a phone," Arnold said. "For SMBs, this is probably enough [UC] for them."

In recent years, large companies have increasingly swapped their traditional desk phones for mobile devices or softphones, an application that lets people use their PCs to make calls over the Internet. SMBs, on the other hand, have remained comfortable using basic desk phones.  

Nevertheless, SMBs seem willing to consider a change. A 2011 study by the analyst firm IDC found SMBs are selectively using UC features in a piecemeal fashion. SMBs are paying for services such as VoIP, Web conferencing and unified messaging tools, but are refraining from adopting an entire suite that includes all or most UC features.  

Panasonic is trying to tap into this market by upgrading the telephone system with UC features, Arnold said. If SMBs can get video and messaging in a desk phone, they might not look elsewhere, he said.

Last year, Panasonic released the KX-NS700G. The system provides 288 phone lines, integrations with desktop applications such as Microsoft Outlook, and a built-in voicemail system that can notify users of new voice messages via email. The system also has a call center that routes calls and places multiple callers in a queue.

Next Steps

SMBs see more value in IT today than previously

Microsoft Office 365 E5 heats up SMB market

Small businesses get FastTrack with Microsoft Office 365

Dig Deeper on Unified Communications ROI