Feeds

How smart does your desk phone need to be?

IP phones promised the world, did you ever do more than dial?

Business security measures using SSL

The business IP telephone market has spent more than a decade trying to establish exactly how much intelligence the market wants in its telephones. The customer's answer has almost always been “less than the vendors want to sell us.” Anyone looking for an albino pachyderm can therefore point to the CPUs and APIs baked into IP handsets as evidence the species is flourishing.

If an outfit like ShoreTel had cracked the secret of making desktop handsets relevant, they'd probably be getting a call post-haste regarding a cash-plus-shares takeover offer and a discreet absorption into the heart of the Borg.

What's more likely is that ShoreTel's Interop release of a dock that makes iThings better desk phones will inform a bunch of other releases and perhaps start to reposition what's expected of the office desk phone.

What the ShoreTel Dock offers is a stand with a cradle to hold an iPhone or iPad, plus a traditional telephone keypad. With real buttons, a speakerphone with and a handset complete with so-retro-it's-hip curly cord.

The cradle lets an iPad assume either portrait or landscape positions, and since it's a docking station there's power for the device you're using, Bluetooth, and a headset connector.

The ShoreTel Dock doesn't even do the communicating: the phone or tablet does that (preferably, in ShoreTel's world, via its ShoreTel Mobile app, but the company has enough sense not to completely leg-rope the system. Some features are specific to the company's app, but not all.

To round it out, the whole thing is zero-config – because the dock has no brains to speak of.

Shoretel Dock

Who needs brains in the deskphone, when the fondleslab exists?

So what?

The mere existence of the dock is a finger in the eye for the phone-as-custom-app-client idea. It's also a nod in the direction of the fact that rolling out new enterprise IP telephones can be a miserable experience. A telephone with a Web server is a folly without warrant: all it provides is an insecure-by-default way to access phone configuration, imposing on the sysadmin the task of creating a non-default admin password. Either that task or the password will probably be forgotten.

Any brand-new out-of-the-box IP phone will probably start its life with a firmware upgrade, will need its own vulnerability protections, and in most cases, will be used without requiring the device to deploy more intelligence than the bit of boring bakelite that preceded it.

Those hassles, and the dedicated phones that propagate them, should surely be not long for this world, especially as in the BYOD world World+Dog has a smartphone or tablet that's more powerful, has a camera easily good enough for videoconferencing, a screen big enough for presentation sharing, contains the user's address book, and so on.

There's plenty of room for discussion, debate and refinement of just what it will take for smartphones and/or fondleslabs to replace deskphones: whether, for example, there's any real need for ShoreTel's old-style handset is probably debatable, and conveniences are missing if you're an Android user (although ShoreTel hopes to have that rectified by the end of the year).

But for something so simple, The Register finds itself intrigued by the notion that a tiny amount of physical functionality (decent speakerphone quality and a familiar interface) plus the right app might succeed in bringing have something to it.

Especially since the phone's/tablet's other functions remain available (even if you undock, because that doesn't break the Bluetooth connection). Even a fat softphone isn't all that demanding as a piece of software.

It's also likely to be a boon in any hot-desking environment – since the profile of the user comes with the device they dock, rather than being in the phone.

What do readers think? Is “as dumb as possible” the best answer to the question “how smart should the office phone be?” ®

Business security measures using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
ISPs' post-net-neutrality world is built on 'bribes' says Tim Berners-Lee
Father of the worldwide web is extremely peeved over pay-per-packet-type plans
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.