Enterprise telephony providers have had to evolve or face extinction as enterprises have steadily shifted from on-premises, traditional phones to cloud-based options with greater flexibility and efficiency.
The number of traditional desk-phone providers has rapidly declined, so much so that many industry research firms have stopped issuing reports and rankings. Still, enterprise telephony – which includes VoIP and PBX – remains a highly competitive industry with players gaining market share through innovation and efficiency.
Desk phones are still not dead, said Alaa Saayed, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
“IP desktop phones, especially open SIP phone devices, are still selling well, specially in hosted/cloud-based telephony environments,” he said. “In spite of this, the software-centric communications and collaboration revolution has been compelling more businesses to shy away from IP desktop devices in favor of USB-enabled endpoints such as professional headsets. While the vast majority of global business users still have a hard phone at their desk, actual usage of business desktop phones has been notably decreasing across the years.”
Growth in PC-based communications, including browser-based and downloaded soft-client interfaces, has been propelling more business to invest in other types of endpoints that are more functional to a software-based conversation, Saayed said. Today, professional headsets are no longer considered accessories, but “intelligent endpoints that can significantly augment a software communications and collaboration experience,” he said.
“Triggered by the ever-growing availability of USB and bluetooth headsets, more businesses have been considering the move to environments without desktop phones,” he said.
Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates, said all the vendors who are making phones still are doing well with them. Successful providers are “still willing to innovate” and are continuing to innovate because the role of the desk phone has been evolving, he said.
“There are vendors out there who make phones that are just phones, and there’s still a market for that for sure, but the ones that are staying strong in this space are really continuing to innovate, basically looking at what the desk-phone experience needs to be,” he said. “So it’s certainly gotten beyond the purely functional role of [enabling] a voice conversation … for the phones to remain relevant they have to have certainly more intelligence and more support for multiple channels, and features that aren’t just for voice.”
It’s also important for the provider to have a variety of phones to match various end-users’ needs, Arnold said.
“This is also good for the channel because now they can come to a customer and say, ‘We’ve got five different varieties of phones here, and you can mix and match them to your needs,'” he said.
There aren’t many pure-play phone vendors anymore, Arnold said.
“For example, Cisco is one of the leading vendors for phones, but it’s a small part of their business,” he said. “It’s not a standalone growth category anymore. Too many things are changing.”
The pace of improving current products and services, along with launching new ones, is faster than it has ever been, said Julie Dzubay, WTG‘s vice president of sales operations and editorial advisory board member.
“Part of this is being driven by global technology influence and small, nimble startup companies,” she said. “In addition, customers have a higher risk tolerance with technology when there is a price gap. Previously, many clients had major requirements for the tried and true ‘household’ brands. With the introduction of new technologies, there is no track record. All of the providers are new to the market for those services, creating a very competitive marketplace.”
Successful and cutting edge aren’t necessarily synonymous, said Alex Hart, 2112 Group’s senior vice president of strategic services.
“Having a set of products/solutions that are at the bleeding edge of technology, but are complex to implement, lack scalability or cannot be easily supported post-implementation, completely negates whatever technological benefit the solution or provider touts,” he said. “Success comes from being able to solve for the customers need with offerings that are efficient, secure, scalable, feature-rich, cost-effective and also integrate with other third-party collaboration solutions that the customer may already have in place.”
Based on feedback from analysts, industry experts, editorial advisory board members and recent news reports, we’ve compiled a list, in no particular order, of 20 enterprise telephony providers that are making the most of the current competitive landscape and charting success.