Nortel CTO rejects claim the desktop phone is dead

Nortel chief technologist and vice president of network architecture, Phil Edholm has brushed aside claims that the consolidation of desktop communication devices will sound the death knell for the desktop phone.

Chris Pattas, Ericsson ANZ director of enterprise, speaking just before his presentation: Beyond VoIP: Mobilising the Workforce, at the South East Asian Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC 05) in Darling Harbour, Sydney on Tuesday, said, 'Integrated communication solutions will mark the death of the desktop phone.'

"We believe the enterprise will find it hard to justify the existence of the desktop phone as it's not as good as a computer [with a soft phone application] or as convenient as a mobile phone," Pattas said.

His declaration comes on the eve of Ericsson's introduction of OnePhone, a packaged solution that integrates the PABX with the mobile network to equip users with a single device with all the functionality of PABX and capable of handling e-mail.

But Edholm, who will be speaking at the conference today on 'A View to the Future - The Changing Face of Business Communications', sees things differently and believes the issue raises more questions than answers.

"Cost points for telephony are so low for businesses it won't make much of a difference at all," he said. "Claiming one device will mark the death of the desktop phone is just hyperbole!"

Edholm said that using a single device as the central hub for communication processes, including business and private calls, e-mails and videoconferencing, raises a number of interesting questions, in particular the issue of constant accountability.

"One of the big values of traditional global communication systems is that you know where everyone else is," Edholm said. "When you start virtualizing communication processes and introducing systems that filter communication through one device, you lose track of people, and paradoxically people lose the power to hide, because they are always available."

However, in the world of enterprise, being available for constant communication has its distinct advantages.

According to Edholm, 70 percent of business decision time is made up of waiting. The ability to be reached, no matter where a person is, can drastically reduce this time, resulting in huge advantages for business.

"This is both good and bad," Edholm said. "On one hand it's great for business, but on the other it could become incredibly intrusive, to the point that people could avoid communication all together."

If integrated communication was to succeed, it would be necessary to involve virtual agents, capable of managing average users' communications and reachability so that the distinctions between a user's business identity and private identity could be easily made, Edholm said.

Rules must be established within this technology to distinguish when people can call, depending on time, location and relationship with the user, he said.

"The next five years will be all about interaction, with the real question being, how do we combine process change, information and interaction."

Edholm said that if companies want to consolidate costs, and implement strategies that improve business processes, the key is management and collaboration with technology.

IDG is the official organizer and media sponsor of the SEARCC 05 conference.

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