Unified Communications Featured Article

ShoreTel Brings Mobile UC to the Desktop

May 07, 2013

By definition, all your employees are consumers too, and they are all going to be carrying around their own personal smartphones at work for both job and personal contacts (“dual persona). They may also be carrying tablets in place of bulky laptops to access “cloud”- based applications when on the go. How can that fact of life be accepted to improve multi-modal business communications while also minimizing communication costs?

The need for flexibility in business communications has always been driven primarily by end user mobility. Legacy desktop communications handled such flexibility needs with separate and expensive voice and visual endpoints, connections, and software applications. Multi-modal wireless smartphones and tablets have made UC enablement both necessary and practical. Now that such ubiquitous mobile devices can do almost everything that the desktop endpoints do and more, the BYOD question arises about the need for having different endpoints for an end user who may need both wired and wireless connections.

Like many consumers who have already abandoned their residence wired phones and home PCs in favor of more flexible, mobile smartphones, we can now expect a similar trend to take place for business users, whether working in an office or from home. However, the problem with using those just mobile devices in place of wired desktop phones and PCs is that:

1.    Battery life won’t support prolonged usage for either long phone calls or extended online application access;

2.    Voice quality is not always good;

3.    Handset control of “hard phones” is ergonomically better than screen-based control; and

4.    BYOD considerations require “dual persona” controls over call/message management.

ShoreTel’s Desktop Hard Phone for the Post-PC Employee

Recognizing this need for business end users, ShoreTel has just announced its new desktop offering, the ShoreTel Dock, coupled with ShoreTel Mobility, to allow BYOD employees to use their mobile smartphones and tablets as “portable PCs” that can also work with “smart” hard desk phones in an office or at home. Because they are multi-modal devices, the smartphones and tablets take over the roles of the desktop PC in terms of access to “cloud” based applications, “softphone” screen-based telephony options, and multi-modal messaging functions.

Those mobile devices can now also benefit from using a very low-cost desktop hard phone add-on that takes care of the inherent limitations of the mobile devices mentioned above. It also retains the familiar and simple options for initiating and receiving phone calls that legacy “hard” desk phones have long offered.

While the multi-modal mobile devices handle all forms of communications, ranging from text messaging to Instant Messaging to voice and video connections, ShoreTel’s Dock and ShoreTel Mobility enable easy visual access to those new communication functions. The Dock still has the familiar Message Waiting Indicator light, which is controlled by their voicemail application, but therefore doesn’t reflect any other forms of messaging activity. Given that the multimodal smartphones and tablets are really handling all kinds of incoming calls and messages, it would be nice to see that MWI light tie in with a more comprehensive display of all the different kinds of messages that are “waiting,” not just “Visual Voicemail.” Voicemail messages are no longer necessarily more important than other modes of messages and notifications!

ShoreTel has also incorporated “dual persona” capabilities in its call management functions for both incoming and outbound calls. This allows job-related calls to be managed separately and differently from personal calls on the same device. Although traditional phone calling by keying in a phone number will not disappear overnight, it is also obvious that “contextual” contacts from a directory display, a text or voice message, or from a document that is linked to a particular individual or group of individuals, is the way of the presence-based UC future.

ShoreTel seems to be moving quickly to a UC-enabled desktop with its integration with Microsoft Lync, while also preserving familiar telephony procedures and user interfaces for desktop business users.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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