Reclaiming the Title "Smartphone"

11 Nov 2013

The smartphone is the one in your pocket, not the one on the desk. Desktop phones should be the smart ones because they are free of the mobile constraints. Wired phones have access to ample power, don't need to rely on antennas, can have much larger displays and speakers, and they have room for hard keys. Yet, it's the portable bundle of compromise that carries the moniker of smart.

For several years of hard phone v softphone debates, I've maintained that the correct answer is a reinvented hardphone. Cisco provides the model with its DX650 video endpoint. I wrote about it when it was launched, and it's grown on me because it represents a new expectation for desktop UC.

When the first Android-based desktop phones came out I considered them a solution without a problem. In a post on the TC Android phone I wrote, "The company is going to need some compelling business apps." The problem was desktop computers and mobile phones offered a better experience for general Android apps. That was three years ago.

The DX650 is an Android-based, video, smart, desk phone with its own apps as well as compatibility with the Google Play Store. It brings the traditional IP phone to the current era.

When it launched many observers complained that it was the Cius with a cord. There is some truth to that, but so what? The Cius was a decent product, it just wasn't as attractive as general purpose alternative tablets such as the iPad. The DX650 doesn't compete with the iPad, it's competing against traditional desktop phones (as well as softphones and smartphones).

I like desk phones. They are always-on and fit-for-purpose with quality audio. The problem is that most are just good for voice communications, and my needs are broader. In UC parlance, multi-modal communications are standard issue, thus the endpoint needs to be savvy with more than voice. The modern UC physical endpoint needs integrated presence, contacts, calendar, and video as a starting point.

Additionally, the DX650 is the first phone I've seen that is truly bluetooth savvy. Cisco calls this Intelligent Proximity, and it allows the sharing of contacts and call histories with smartphones. It is an enterprise UC desk phone that accepts and embraces the mobile phone. It means the DX650 itself can be a handset, speaker, or headset for the mobile. This is common with new cars, but rare in UC endpoints.

The phone has APIs allowing third parties to leverage the DX650. Consider this scenario enabled by Plantronics:

  1. Single reach incoming call routes to mobile device.

  2. Call answered on bluetooth Plantronics Legend headset. It's an important ad-hoc video call, so it's appropriate to return to the desk.

  3. Upon arrival, the DX650 detects the headset and signals the DX650 to prompt to move the call to the desk. Accept with a single touch.

  4. The active call moves to the DX650, drops from the mobile device, AND gets promoted to video.

Another integration from Plantronics is the screen auto lock/unlock feature based on headset proximity. Security needs to be more passive than rely on users to manually lock and unlock their devices.

Since the DX650 is Android-based, it can run native apps. Several of the Cisco apps such as WebEx are enhanced specifically for the device. I sometimes get frustrated with web conferences because I need screen real estate for note taking (and email). It would be nice to have the option of using a separate UC endpoint for the conference. For non-WebEx conferences, Plantronics modified its InstantMeeting conference calling application to work on the DX650.

The DX650 sports a HD camera and 9" display. The screen can be utilized as a second screen for desktop video sessions. If that screen is too small, then use the HDMI output for an external 1920 x 1200 monitor configured as a larger mirrored display or for completely separate content.

With the right apps, The DX650 could be an complete call center agent desktop. The on-screen apps don't have to be Android-based because it includes a client for virtual desktop interface (VDI). There are also Android apps that support RDP. Since the device has a built in VPN client, the agent could just as easily be in a remote location.

I contend desk phones are here to stay, but not the simple voice endpoints so common today. Smartphones are versatile, but their size and other features optimized for mobility limit utility for the deskbound. There is still a significant group that primarily work at a desk (albeit at home), so don't rule-out a wired smartphone.

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