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.
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.Also read
- Mobile device management: More than just software
- Three Mobile Device Management services suited for enterprise needs
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.
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.
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 applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.