Does the Software Evolution Spell Doom for Desk Phones?

Desktop phone
James Anderson

James Anderson

**Editor’s Note: Read our list of 20 top UCaaS providers offering products and services via channel partners.**

Do businesses that sell desk phones need to rethink their practice?

Last year we asked the same question with mixed results. Analysts and vendors told us that office phones might have a future if they play friendly in a “mobile-first” world.

“Bottom line is, we came up with a thesis that in order for desk phones to be relevant in the future, they must be better integrated with mobile devices and software applications,” said David Plakosh, general manager and chief technology officer of Allworx.

Alcatel-Lucent’s David Zhou

Alcatel-Lucent’s David Zhou

But technology evolves rapidly – you can quote me on that – and 2018 is already seeing different faces and trends in the market from last year. A panel of vendors recently advised partners on how to handle the emergence of Slack in the UCaaS market.

So it’s time to revisit this topic. We spoke to a desk-phone provider, a VoIP provider and a consultant about how this conversation is evolving in 2018 and how it affects channel partners and their customers.

Alcatel-Lucent initially reached out to to me with a statistic from Wainhouse Research that says 85 percent of the workforce uses a desk phone. David Zhou, the company’s product line manager, told me that there is something of a mixed bag regarding the state of the market; it’s there to stay, but it might not grow much.

“We must agree that the global desk-phone market (or terminal market) is a highly developed market, so we’re unlikely to see dramatic growth in coming years,” Zhou said. “So far, we don’t see a timeline for desk phones phasing out; it will always be there.”

The slowed growth applies more to the U.S., as Zhou points to a growing market in countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa because desk phones are cost-effective.

Vonage’s Omar Javaid

Vonage’s Omar Javaid

But there are some exceptions in the U.S., Zhou says, such as the health care, travel and call-center verticals.

Zhou and Vonage’s Omar Javaid agreed that demand is rising for conferencing phones and “huddle rooms.”

But for Javaid, who serves as chief product officer for Vonage, the prognosis for desk phones is declining.

“What we’ve seen is a year-over-year sequential decline. This industry – specifically UCaaS – has really become a software business,” Javaid told Channel Partners in an interview.

Kirk Armstrong, network design specialist for Eclipse Telecom, mainly agreed with the two vendors. While he doesn’t see desk phones becoming more prominent, he says the duration for them to phase out is “decades.”

“This is more along the lines of a long-term transition out. We’re not seeing a ton of people saying, ‘Hey, I’m moving from UCaaS provider to UCaaS provider,” and then they’re yanking all their phones out. If it’s a heavily mobile workforce or a heavily work-from-home workforce, we’re seeing some adoption in that. But for the most part, people are still working in the office from a desk phone,” he said.

Javaid concludes that it is a “declining business” with products that are very still existent in businesses, such as mainframe computers.

“It will always be there in some respects, but it’s all going to be taken over by software, whether that software is …

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One comment

  1. Avatar Oliver Jake March 27, 2018 @ 12:40 am

    Desk phones are nowhere near to go down! Not that easily unless we get a good source of battery life for our phones but then again people need privacy and majority won’t even bother to get all their business clients on their personal cellphone.

    Future is always less predicted and right call center service providers are blooming just because of this.

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