Plantronics aims to solve 'last 10 feet' problem with unified communications
Unified communications has been a topic in IT management circles for years. It's a topic that can lead to packed houses at conferences and Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft and IBM all have extensive unified communications suites.
Unified communications has been a topic in IT management circles for years. It's a topic that can lead to packed houses at conferences and Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft and IBM all have extensive unified communications suites. The problem: Users.
Here's the unified communications blue print: Enterprises spend heavily on suites that bundle instant messaging, Web conferencing, video presence, collaboration and email so there are secure communications that enhance productivity. The reality: Those suites can be tough for users to navigate and some folks don't quite get that PC as a phone thing. As a result, the unified communications bandwagon doesn't quite fill up like IT execs hoped. And then we all go about our Skype, AOL and Yahoo messaging anyway.
Plantronics is aiming to alleviate some of those problems. Plantronics, which is best known in the enterprise as a headset maker, also owns a bunch of audio assets--including Altec Lansing. Simply put, Plantronics makes audio gear for everything from the iPod to the Federal Aviation Administration. And now it's even dabbling in software to act as a unified communications traffic cop.
I took a briefing from Plantronics out of curiosity. I've been using the headsets for years---I can't hold a handset for more than a few minutes or my neck falls off (only slightly exaggerating)---and was curious about that last 10 feet problem with unified communications, which looks so good on the white board but often fails to connect with users.
In a nutshell, Plantronics on Wednesday is launching a series of headsets dubbed Savi (right). These are designed to blend your PC and traditional land line while improving the quality of audio on applications like Skype. For the enterprise, Plantronics' headsets come with standard bases and customized headsets---it's all about trying to get unified communications buy-in.
The big pitch is that Plantronics' headsets can provide one outlet for desk, soft and mobile phones. If you've juggled the headsets associated with Skype on your PC, your mobile phone and office line you quickly realize that Plantronics' approach may actually work.
Among the key points:
Plantronics is launching Savi Office, a headset that mixes and matches calls from various outlets (PC, land line, softphones etc). Users can go up to 350 feet away from the desk and retain the wireless connection to the phone because Plantronics uses a frequency that doesn't interfere with Wi-Fi and other signals.
Savi Go connects a wireless headset to PC and mobile phone calls, and you can only wander 30 feet away 200 feet away since it's Class 1 Bluetooth.
The headsets will be available in April.
To manage all of these connections, Plantronics is dabbling with software for the first time. The headsets come with an application called the PerSono Suite that manages calls and audio with one-click. PerSono basically plays red light, green light with your calls and acts as a traffic cop.
Beau Wilson, Plantronics global product manager for the company's B2B products, said the decision to get into software was "add incremental value" and better "upgrade firmware in the field." Wilson notes that Plantronics plan to be a headset/software traffic cop for various unified communications applications won't be needed in five years or so. By then, unified communications will be adopted everywhere and your PC will be your phone. For now though, users need the help.
This slide highlights the unified communications trend and the winners and losers:
Plantronics' foray into software treads lightly. Per Sono integrates and plays well with all of the enterprise applications and other messaging systems like Skype, Yahoo IM and Google Talk.
Plantronics has a few pilots in the field with its new headsets, but I think there will be a receptive audience for them. Unified communications does have a "last 10 feet" problem. It's one thing to hear the big tech guns yap about unified communications and get CIOs implementing. It's quite another to get users to buy it.