It’s not very often that a debate between technology journalists nearly comes to blows. But that’s exactly what happened last month when two senior ITBusiness editors — who tend to have strong views on technological issues — had one of their usual passionate debates. This argument was over the merits
of computers and phones.
One editor said firms using voice over IP should simply put the processing power of the computer on the phones, and not give employees computers. Phones are ubiquitous, he said, so workers could have their handsets everywhere. But another editor vehemently argued that computers are also ubiquitous, and wondered what the advantage is of adding computing power to your phone when it’s better to add telephony to your computer?
This anecdote is actually true, though the description of the strong feelings involved has been embellished. It’s evidence that as voice and data networks converge, more network managers and chief information officers are going to start debating the merits of giving workers both IP phones and PCs. Why not buy a sophisticated IP phone that brings up more information on its screen than a traditional time-division-multiplexing (TDM) phone? One good reason not to do this is it’s a lot harder to type on a phone keypad than on a traditional keyboard. But why not dispense with traditional phones entirely and simply give workers soft phones — software applications that let them make phone calls from their PCs over an IP network? After all, many workers have PCs with sound cards and speaker ports, and could easily support soft phone applications, such as Skype or those available from the telecom equipment manufacturers.
There will likely be resistance from several quarters. It’s unlikely the vendors really want the market for handsets to dry up and have everyone to use soft phones, while a worker who’s used to having a phone might not be happy about having to talk to someone over a computer. Aside from that, is there any reason for having a both a phone and a computer in a voice over IP environment? If you know of one, please share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org