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Why better-quality headsets are essential for the growth of VoIP

At VoIP trade shows such as the one I am attending now, you have your various equipment exhibitors, alliance builders, systems integrators and speakers whose companies range the gamut from softphone providers and handset makers to security solutions marketers.You hear a lot about protocols, QoS and network testing and performance metrics.

At VoIP trade shows such as the one I am attending now, you have your various equipment exhibitors, alliance builders, systems integrators and speakers whose companies range the gamut from softphone providers and handset makers to security solutions marketers.

You hear a lot about protocols, QoS and network testing and performance metrics.

But unless you pay attention- real close attention, you hear and see very little about one unglamorous but neccessary element that in my opinion, is absolutely necessary for VoIP to cross the chasm to mass consumer adoption and more widespread enterprise use.

I am talking about the lowly headset. The average headsets sold at your major CE retailers are of poor construction, low durability, cut out frequently, are not that flexible for users who need to navigate the earpieces to their ear's "sweet spot." That's the term audiologists use for the specific location on the ear that sound hits most directly, and can be picked up with the fidelity necessary to distinguish sound-alike letters from each other.

The ear's sweet spot can be likened to.. OK let's move along now.

Don't even ask me how bad these cheap headset mics are. They slip, fall, and are generally not robust enough to stay positioned on the set in such a way that they will line up correctly with the mouth of the person who is talking over the softphone.

Oh, and don't even talk to me about earbuds. They don't fit, they fall off. They rhyme with a bird who quacks a lot.

I do see some progress, though. You may have missed it but Plantronics has just made an interesting announcement. The company whose headset carried the first words from the Moon has just released the DA40, a USB-to-headset adapter that Plantronics says will enable enterprises to quickly optimize existing headsets for use with softphones.

I am going to wrap up this post with a quote from the Plantronics press release, but it is from an analyst I totally respect. One who gets it about headsets.

“There is no doubt that VoIP in the enterprise is now the standard for communications — PBX lines are going the way of the dinosaur,” William Stofega, research manager, VoIP Services at IDC.   “Whether companies are installing hardphones, softphones or both throughout the organization, headsets play an integral role in developing a successful VoIP infrastructure that optimizes voice communications.”

He's right. Without durable headsets, VoIP won't recognize its potential in the enterprise - or for that matter among consumers.