Remember when endpoints were called phones? Now endpoints can be hard or soft; SIP, proprietary, or analog; video-enabled; HD-audio capable; wireless (DECT or Wi-Fi); or desktop or mobile (iOS, Android, BB, Win8, tablet, or smartphone).
We’ve come a long way from touch tone or rotary. Multiple endpoint options do and should exist in an enterprise deployment. A comprehensive enterprise UC solution will utilize multiple types of endpoints; each with unique benefits.
Here is a quick overview of different types of endpoints from a recent article on Unified Communications Strategies.
The biggest advantage is the full keyboard and mouse. The traditional telephone user interface is very limited and intimidating (asking a novice to transfer a call is a risky proposition). Another key benefit of softphones is they don’t take-up any more room in the computer bag for those that need a non-mobile phone when on the road.
The biggest benefit is they are understood. Anyone can work a phone and place a basic call, especially if the dial plan involves a 9 for an outside line.
Another key benefit is hard phones are always on—and even those that do require a login (hot-desking) still offer limited functionality (internal/emergency) without credentials. They also have the added satisfaction that comes with slamming down the handset in anger.
The promise of SIP endpoints (hard or soft) is a best-of-breed vendor independent freedom. SIP is great at basic signalling.
SIP interoperability is still a concern, but significantly improved. SIP endpoint provisioning and security tends to be more manual than proprietary endpoints.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing wrong with analog endpoints—they offer a reliable cost-effective alternative. They are particularly useful in situations where data-grade cabling is unavailable.
Also, some UC dashboards provide rich point-and-click functionality that integrates with any endpoint—including analog devices.
This is rapidly becoming standard issue on softphones, but still the exception on hard phones. That’s simple economics—the softphone cost doesn’t include the screen or the camera. However, the cost of video-enabled hard phones is dropping quickly, and some make the camera an add-on option.
Wireless (non cellular)
Considering the general enterprise has excellent wireless coverage and considering the general employee is highly mobile, the wireless extension should make a lot of sense. The problem is there just aren’t that many to choose from. They are far more popular in Europe than the U.S., possibly because most are designed by Europeans.
The current smartphone is a wondrous device capable of replacing many things: pagers, wallets, folded maps, diary/calendars, calculators, flashlights, cameras—and yes, possibly desk phones. The biggest problem with mobile phones is battery life. They also get lost, stolen, misplaced, and dropped.
See above, but with big pockets.