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VOIP: The future is here Featured

The release of Shoretel's Dock device this week throws up some necessary questions about the future of telephony and VOIP, the answers to which aren't immediately obvious.

The ShoreTel Dock, which we reported on earlier this week, is a hybrid that doesn't quite know what it wants - it's of the future but also of the past. It offers a stand with a cradle to hold an iPhone or iPad, but also a traditional telephone keypad. The setup also comes equipped with real buttons, aspeakerphone with and a fully functioning handset, along with a curly cord to boot.

But it runs off the iPhone (or iPad). Shoretel's dock has no processor or brains of its own. It therefore manages to sidestep the inevitable pains that come with installing traditional
corporate conference IP phones. Firmware upgrades, security passwords, tiny screens and a lack of portability all combine to make the case for clunky IP phones hardly convincing.

The harsh reality for companies like Cisco now is that mobiles have cameras good enough for videoconferencing, a screen big enough for presentation sharing, can run apps like Skype (and now Viber), and essentially can do anything a traditional workplace phone can do.

But they usually do these things with more ease, and often at less expense.

The main thing holding back VoIP (Voice over IP) and BYOD now is security, and those who simply like the idea of a physical handset on their desk. Handset security is a big part of what made BlackBerry so successful, and it's heartening to see Samsung have a crack too with Knox.

Knox promises to keep the personal and work aspects of an employee's phone separate, allowing tech departments to have entire control over only the 'work' half of employee
devices. It's a smart move that will see Android make real inroads in the corporate sector.

While security is still the biggest barrier to ubiquity in workplace smartphones, but the rise of BYOD in corporate Australia is unstoppable. Analysts are generally in agreement too,
with Michael Bosnar from virtualisation and BYOD specialist AppSense telling iTWire that managers were becoming more flexible as device security and capability increased.

"The smart people, the people ahead of the game, are looking at it and saying the new smart devices are the way to go," he said.

"A lot of larger organisations are starting to get on board. A lot of the initial obstacles that were there are now being overcome."

Shoretel's odd yet simple solution is a convenient but temporary one, ideal for those who can't live without a chunky physical desk phone but like just about everything about their
iPhone. These people will eventually come around, as will their procurement departments.

The future of telephony is in VoIP and apps. It's just a matter of time.

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David Swan

David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun.

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