Responding to a presentation at this week's BroadSoft Connections conference, several industry analysts took to Twitter to share their market research data concerning the future of the desk phone. The consensus: The much-maligned desk phone will hold its own in the market, with demand and sales at worst remaining flat or down only slightly, or even possibly growing. Specifically:
From Stephanie Watson, general manager at MZA: "Our @MZA_Analysts saw a total of 28m desktop phones (digital, prop[rietary] IP, SIP) sold globally, relatively flat demand overall, proprietary IP just outselling non-prop SIP. Vendor refresh, move to open SIP (driven by UCaas) driving IP/SIP growth. Many users use s[oftware] client & deskphone."
From Alaa Saayed, Frost & Sullivan analyst: "Proprietary IP desktop phones are expected to continue to decrease, while open SIP phones have a 7-year CAGR of 11.8 percent in terms of shipment and 7.1 percent in terms of revenue. "
And finally, from Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research: "27% of the 625 participants in @nemertes 2018 UCC study were increasing desktop phone deployments, 24% were decreasing. No, the desktop phone is not dead."
One of the common threads running through these tweets seems to be that enterprises are shifting the type of phones they're buying, and seem to be in a transition from proprietary IP phones to non-proprietary SIP phones. That suggests that the market isn't being driven by blind dedication to outdated ideas -- we buy desk phones because we've always bought desk phones -- but instead that there's method to a process that looks like madness to anyone who just can't deal with having a landline anywhere in their life. Enterprises are buying phones, but they're making thoughtful purchases with an eye toward the actual value a phone can deliver.
Watson's point about users wanting both softphones and desk phones suggests a hybrid environment for many: Soft clients can be great for internal meetings and quickly touching base with a colleague -- someone who, in an earlier era, you'd have picked up your desk phone and called, quietly relishing the need to dial only four digits. Meanwhile, a desk phone, especially with a wireless headset, can be a better way to go for extended sales calls, for example.
As for the size of the market, in the old PBX days, the rule of thumb was that the market would track the larger economy. When companies were hiring people, they needed more phones. When they were letting people go, they needed fewer. If you apply that guideline now, you could believe that we're seeing a dwindling of the desk phone market. Nemertes' figure that a quarter of companies are decreasing their phone deployments in a strong economy suggests to me that perhaps those companies just don't want to support as many phones as they used to. The fact that some companies are increasing their phone deployments suggests only that there's not a wholesale abandonment of phones.
Ultimately, how we talk about the phone market depends on whether we're looking at it from the perspective of the vendors or the customers. From the vendor's perspective, yeah, the phone market's still a decent place to make some high-margin revenue. That fact has basically nothing at all to do with whether your enterprise needs desk phones. That's a decision only your IT team -- in close consultation with your end users -- can make.
And the place to get help with this and many other decisions, both tactical and strategic, is Enterprise Connect Orlando 2019. Among our 60+ breakout sessions, we'll be examining endpoint strategies, capex vs. opex, and reallocating budgets from legacy to new investments, just to name a few. I hope you can join us the week of March 18, 2019, at the Gaylord Palms hotel, for some in-depth discussions on the decision-making challenges you're finding most critical.