Carl Weinschenk spoke with Jeanine Sterling, Senior Program Director at InfoTech-The Telecom Intelligence Group.
Weinschenk: What did your recent dual-mode phone study explore?
Sterling: What we wanted to do was understand enterprise expectations around the dual-mode phone solutions. By dual-mode, we mean cellular/wireless LAN [phones]. Our thinking was that we are at the very start of the adoption curve of this type of device. The first thing that strikes you is the magnitude of the demand. We asked them to project over three years. We found three-quarters of U.S. and over 90 percent of EMEA (Europe/Middle East/Asia) companies will give at least some mobile workers dual phones by 2009. That's striking. It's really resonating with business. When we asked them about barriers and concerns, they rated security and quality of service as higher concerns. They're smart. They are not taking a pie-in-the-sky attitude. They are clearly optimistic that industry players are going to be able to work through the challenges.
Another interesting thing is that over half the U.S. respondents had the concept pitched to them - primarily by the IP PBX manufacturers, but also by systems integrators, the wireless LAN vendors and network service providers. To me, this is the classic pull strategy. Where you have players talking up the solution, you are firing up enterprise demand and they, in turn, are going to exert pressure on the lagging players to get them to participate in getting the solution to market. Cellular carriers are being described as one of the last holdouts. If carriers ignore this, if they don't have a story around what they planning in this area, either they come across as technology laggards or as uncaring of customer needs. Neither is an enviable position.
Weinschenk: In-building cellular solutions also are an option, according to your results. How so?
Sterling: Another thing that comes out - we didn't drill down on this - is that this isn't the only single device solution of interest. We asked them what they think their company favors at this time [between] a dual-mode phone or an in-building, all-cellular solution. They came down on the side of dual-mode two to one, but with a big undecided [group]. I think at this time, they are looking at in-building all cellular [solutions]. These systems don't have enterprise telephony features, or as many as dual-mode systems do. Some are hesitant to get so entwined with the cellular companies. Another thing that we look at is the displacement impact of dual-mode. [We asked] what device, just top of mind, do you see displaced by dual-mode? We only asked for one. Forty percent said mobile devices, mostly cell phones, also smartphones, some WLAN-only phones - single mode - some softphone on laptops. Thirty percent said a traditional desk phone or IP desk phone. Thirty percent said there would be no displacement. This may indicate adding new wireless users if they can add the phone at the right price.
Weinschenk: What should IT planners be cognizant of in the transition to dual-mode voice devices and networks?
Sterling: Their biggest challenge right now is separating hype from reality. If they are pitched, [IT personnel] should ask whether the cellular carrier has agreed to certify the handset. That's a big barrier right now. Also, they would want to ask if the handset is a converged device or combined device. If [the buyer] is willing to deploy early mode devices, what will the vendor do for them when they come out with more converged models down the road? Will there be price discounts [and/or] trade-in arrangements?