Tablets

Six reasons why tablets will replace desk phones

Are tablets going to replace the corporate desk phone? Will Kelly believes that the pieces are coming together to make this a sensible option for many companies.

The office desk phone is officially on notice that it might be heading to a dusty equipment closet down in the basement. It's not going to be an immediate transition for some organizations, but we are finally at a point where the economics and technologies meet to make the tablet a compelling replacement for the old school desk phone.

Here are the reasons why, for many of us, tablets will replace desk phones in the next few years.

1. BYOD

The 2010 launch of the Apple iPad brought a surge of consumer attention to the tablet. People love their iPads, which in turn gave the Android tablet market a leg up for consumers seeking other options. This led to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, with employees wanting to bring their personal devices into the office to perform their work. Credit can go to the iPad and other tablets for leading this charge.

Moreover, following this surge came increased attention from the business sector wanting more business applications for tablets, especially for communications and collaboration.

2. Growth of Unified Communications

Unified Communications (UC) is now affordable for small, medium, and large corporations alike, making a corporate tablet into a communications hub for employees by combining a VoiP soft phone, Instant Messaging (IM), presence, and video conferencing into one device.

UC vendors -- including Microsoft, Avaya, Cisco, CounterPath, Whaleback, and Fuzebox -- have released Apple and/or Android tablet support for UC platforms. So, a tablet client requirement for your company's new UC system is not far-fetched, since the clients are becoming a standard.

Even if companies don't have the staffing and infrastructure to host their own UC system, new cloud-based options are cropping up all the time, adding further to the case that it's time to move from a traditional PBX setup to UC.

This all makes for an undeniable option for large and small companies to move their voice, video, and online communications to a UC platform and swap out desk phones for tablets so their workers can be productive and in touch to customers from any location, not just their desk back at the corporate office.

3. Advances in tablet hardware

Tablet hardware is advancing to nearly the parity of notebook PCs and ultrabooks. Recent model Android tablets, like the ASUS Transformer Prime, sport specifications like a 5-core processor, 1080p video, and 8 megapixel cameras. And now that the new iPad is sporting an A5X chip, improved battery life, 4G LTE, and a 5 megapixel iSight camera that's great for UC, it's definitely a contender to replace the desk phone.

There are even signs of convergence between the desk phone and tablet with the impending launch of the ASUS PadFone, which combines tablet, phone, and netbook into one device. It launches in April with 16GB/32GB/64GB of memory and 1GB of RAM. A 4.3" smartphone with a latest Snapdragon S4 1.5-Ghz dual-core processor is at the heart of this beast. It also includes a 960 x 540 resolution display with front- and rear-facing cameras. The PadFone station and the phone turn into a 10.1" tablet with a 1280x1000 display. It has the potential to be a wonderfully portable and powerful option for organizations wanting to do away with desk phones.

Hardware specifications on both Android tablets and the iPad make the tablet a ready and portable communications hub when combined with a Bluetooth headset.

4. Improved mobile device management & security tools

Extending a corporate network and communications platform to a mobile device like a tablet isn't without security concerns. Travelers and other mobile workers can lose their devices or have them stolen, thus opening up a potential attack vector.

More mobile device management (MDM) tools are coming available that enable corporate system administrators to locate and even wipe the important data from corporate-owned or BYOD tablets on their network. This helps secure corporate data and communications from the bad guys.

Even without a MDM application running on the corporate network, there are options like Find My iPad, which includes a remote lock and a remote wipe feature that works through the device's location services. Even for freelancers and SMBs, security options are within reach as long as they are configured with security before the first time the device leaves the corporate office.

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5. Growing 4G network availability

Major carriers are all moving towards 4G network coverage in their major North American markets, providing the data pipes necessary to carry video conferencing and VoIP at business-quality levels. This could be the ultimate cutting-the-tether even to home offices and coffee shops, giving road warriors and teleworkers greater flexibility on their work location.

6. Changing nature of work

Cloth cubicle walls and fluorescent lighting no longer make the workspace, and corporations -- even the U.S. federal government -- are realizing cost savings and improved employee morale through the growth of telework programs. When a tablet replaces a desk phone, the form factor makes it easy to take it along to a home office, client site, hotel, or any other place with the employee's telephone system and other UC tools at the ready.

Consolidating devices when possible is helpful for asset management and extending shrinking budgets to support telework programs. Workers also have less to lug around when they're on the road.

Not to mention that the number of self-employed people are growing every year, and replacing a desk phone with a tablet makes more sense to them, because the powerful communications features in a VoIP soft client offer both mobility and phone features that rival their competitors with a traditional Private Branch Exchange (PBX) phone system.

Final thoughts

The hardware, networks, and technology are now coming together to make the tablet a compelling replacement for the traditional desk phone. With productivity benefits for organizations of all sizes, it's time to hang up the desk phone and move your voice communications over to a tablet.

About

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

23 comments
stupid user name
stupid user name

The mobile phone manufacturers and telecom companies have successfully lobbied the FCC to prohibit laptops and tablets from making phone calls. Hmmm, whose best interest will the FCC be promoting tomorrow?

SirWizard
SirWizard

The standard desk phone has two important features that have so far been completely ignored in this discussion: 1. A mouthpiece that enables me to talk quietly out of my mouth (unlike most ear-mike users, who pretend to talk out of the ear). 2. An earpiece that both blocks external noise to that ear and keeps one side of the conversation entirely in the ear of the intended recipient. What happened to the idea of private conversations?! I don't want a crowd listening in to me or the person with whom I'm speaking. My business discussions are not intended for public consumption, even within my office group, but it goes doubly so for personal matters. Moreover, I don't want to hear the noise of you and your correspondent as you (singular and especially you plural) converse on tablet speakerphones. THE DUE DATE WAS ORIGINALLY FRIDAY, BUT CAN YOU GET THAT DOCUMENT TO ME BY MIDAFTERNOON ON THURSDAY? DON'T WORRY. IT'LL BE IN YOUR EMAIL EXACTLY 48 HOURS FROM NOW AT LUNCHTIME WEDNESDAY. BY THE WAY, IS YOUR SPOUSE STILL SUFFERING FROM THAT BOUT OF FOOD POISONING AND EXPLOSIVE DIARRHEA? ALSO, CAN YOU MULTIPLY THE PHONE NOISE BY EIGHT TO INCLUDE THE CUBICLE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF ME, THE THREE BEHIND ME AND THE THREE OPPOSITE ME? I'M GETTING TOTALLY DISTRACTED BY THE NOISE AND CAN'T HEAR MYSELF THINK. So, don't talk nonsense about the all-tablet-speakerphone office replacing the relative peace and quiet of talking into a mouthpiece and listening to the phone's receiver. For a reality check, refer to television having caused the death of radio and movie theaters, or as mentioned already by others in this discussion, the paperless office. Enough from me. Someone else, please address why I wouldn't replace my phone and my beautiful 30-inch monitor for graphic intensive work with a puny tablet.

Bob N.
Bob N.

Tablets require an Internet service plan in order to provide the phone functionality presumed by the author of this article. In a business setting, I simply would not allow an employee to use free open wi-fi for that purpose. I can provide full hosted PBX telephony service to my clients for a lot less per user per month than the pricey data plans carriers are offering today for tablets. I agree that tablets can perform both voice and video call functions, but the real question here is at what cost in terms of monthly recurring expense and with what degree of security. If you try to take the BYOD phenomenon at face value without questioning how a consumer-level device maps to business imperatives, you will eventually get bitten in the backside in ways that you didn't even imagine. I'd like to see a rewrite on the article that provides a deep and thoughtful analysis of all of the risks and rewards. This one was too superficial to be of much value for most business owners and their IT consultants.

gevander
gevander

Since video streaming relies on fatter data pipes and US data carriers don't want to spend money on their infrastructure to make it happen, the "portable office phone" part of this is at least 5 years away in the US and more likely will not happen until after 2020. Businesses might enable internal video conferencing, but it will require infrastructure upgrades there also. No earlier than 2014 for early adopters, 2016 to reach 30% of major corporations, 2020 to reach the tipping point of a majority of all corporations being able to support it internally (inside the site only). This article is totally "pie-in-the-sky".

mkogrady
mkogrady

Tablets will be a great enabler for a national telework program. Getting us weaned off oil and using something a lot less damaging to the environemt makes a lot of sense. Apple sold millions of tablets, and the other vendors are adding to the mix as well. On a national basis I estimate we could have up to 30 million Telecommuters - enough to drive down prices at the pump and free up our roads by eliminating congestion. To this we can add - saving 60 million gallons of gas per day or avoiding 250 million pounds of CO2 and other nasty tail pipe emissions. One final hursle is the Federal Government, who is hopelessly addicted to the taxes generated by gasoline sales. If you think I'm kidding - ask Al Gore (the inventor of the Internet?) why he omitted the words Telecommuting or Telework from his book. It was a bit Inconvenient if you ask me!

mckinnej
mckinnej

that uses a call center system which we log into from our PCs. Calls are then routed from a central number to workers' desk phones. We can remote into the call center system too, so an employee can route calls to their home or cell if they need to. Let me know when you have a solution that replaces that...and is free. We're not going to be spending money to fix what ain't broke. I'd like to see the ROI claim for this too. Desk phones and their systems tend to last decades. Tablets, not so much methinks. Sure, they can be used to do more things, but I'd really like to see some numbers that prove they're less expensive or that they provide capabilities that justify the extra cost. Then there would be the funding wars. Phone systems tend to come out of facilities budgets. Tablets would be IT. No doubt that would get ugly as they do a money tug-o-war.

michael
michael

The author commented that the new camera on the IPAD will impact UC. I disagree. The new camera faces forward away from the user. Although there are some applications where a back facing hi-res camera is needed, the front facing camera for video conferencing is still VGA.

ypsrudy
ypsrudy

I'm sure they will in the long future. The mobile person in sales, corporate executives, etc already do their communicating out in the field. The desk bound types like office personnel that are at their desks most of the day really would not benefit considering that their phone systems are already installed and all they have to do is plug in. On top of that office phones are cheap compared to tablet. We paid around $180 per phone for a primo setup in our office. I guess it's a sit a wait situation ..... Exciting though!!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

and I suspect it will take just as long to realize.

rickgonz
rickgonz

Good points! The technical visionary at the company I work at gave a very similar presentation a week ago, What started first as the piercing of the Blackberry barrier by the iPhone has turned into a possible many to many landscape of wireless devices enabling work to get done. He also provided the real life obstacles much as you did with #4 Device Management and Security Tools. While PCs and Blackberries are enclosed environments, Android for example is a wide open platform where secluded and partitioned off vertical functionality stacks like VPNs will take a little while longer to make tablets a more widespread consumer (employee) choice of appliance.

thomas.cauley
thomas.cauley

Tablets may be great in an company that doesn't have to abide by gov't regulations concerning defense contracts. We have tested and found that productivity decreased, options were available that violated regulations, and theft would make these devices non-feasable. I feel that the desk phone (especially the VoIPs) are here to stay for a while.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't think it's been effectively enforced outside either, but a private individual or company can certainly communicate internally by whatever means they can afford.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

How will tablets facilitate transitioning to teleworking when cheaper, more powerful desktop systems haven't already done so?

GSG
GSG

When people bring that up to me, I tell them that a paperless office is an impossibility and that the goal should be for less paper not paperless.

ChyrillStucker
ChyrillStucker

I have tried all popular applications which provide VOIP calls on my tablet cum phone (The Mighty Dell Streak) & my desktop computer. Surprisingly the most popular & leading products have failed to meet my expectations on the computer system however the applications tend to work better on the tablet.What I also surprisingly experienced was that a 3rd party PBX dialer used a fragment of the bandwidth required as compared to the popular VOIP providers. Ability to dial emergency numbers is also available on the Real PBX dialer as well as other high end features which can make my phone (which is android based) to a complete business phone.

Pete6677
Pete6677

The vast majority of companies don't have to abide by these regulations.

mkogrady
mkogrady

Telework won't necessarily become cheaper - just easier to manage. The powerful desktop systems are not built for mobility, but tablets are. Also, tjhe easy to use aspects of tablets increase the learning curve, they use practically any network present (Cellular, Wifi etc). If you are involved in a Telework program and use your home desktop, then there may be a thin client or remote desktop agent running to get you inside your corporate networks.

Gandgareth
Gandgareth

How many times does a document get written on a computer, 500 (or how ever many) copies printed, only to find an error and the whole thing gets reprinted instead of just the relevent parts. Tablets in the workplace could go a long way to correcting this.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

is based on the assumption that everyone you need to talk to is within your company and using similar technology. It falls apart when you have to talk to that vendor or customer who isn't on your network; or to that factory floor or warehouse employee who uses a phone mounted on the wall.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

that the uses you describe require installing VOIP infrastructure, something that isn't mentioned in the original article.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

as opposed to a corporate environment. I base that on your mentioning 'anywhere where I can get cell service'. I don't think many offices are going to find it economically feasible to provide a cell connection as a replacement for all desk phones. I agree with you as far as mobile employees, but I suspect most of them have already ditched desk phones in exchange for cell phones. I also suspect they'll keep a cell even if they have voice / video on tablets, simply because a phone is smaller and easier to carry.

Skruis
Skruis

I have a Samsung Series 7 Slate running the Consumer Preview loaded with Bria via our VOIP PBX, Microsoft Lync and Spark. I can call anyone, chat, etc from my tablet anywhere where I get cell service and it looks like I'm in the office to whoever I call. For the last 4 months, my tablet has been my desk phone. Now I don't think that desk phones will go away but for the highly mobile employee, the need for a desk phone could evaporate.

TNT
TNT

@Palmetto: That isn't true. My company has VoIP desk phones and VoIP soft phones (on PC's) and now has Microsoft Lync as well. Though Lync is primarily an IM service, it has the ability to make calls via our VoIP system. When at home, I can VPN into the company network, then make calls anywhere in the world. This is important as I sometimes have to support systems in India at two in the morning. Where I think the author is mistaken is that tablets will be the replacement for the desk phone. I think it more likely that a service like Lync will front the phone system and apps like the Lync client, which is available on iOS and Android, will find its way onto user's cell phones. Most smart phones have the same internals as tablets, are easier to carry, and are actually designed to be used as a phone.

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