Gartner forecast on IP phone spending raises questions about redundancy of PC

Internet Protocol phones are more than just phones. With all the applications and input-output features, they are more powerful than the first PCs were, and in some firms, could replace a desktop PC.So why would you have an IP phone with a large screen on your desk, when you also have a PC? Gartner Group VP Bob Hafner obviously asked himself the same question before writing a report advising companies not to purchase IP phones with large screens for users who already have PCs (please see Don’t blow $500 on an IP phone for users who already have PCs: Gartner, page 8).

What’s really astounding is the amount Hafner predicts companies will overspend on IP phones with large screens: US$20.3 billion over five years.

And that’s not the worldwide market for voice over IP, or desktop phones, or IP phones. That’s just the amount of extra revenue equipment manufacturers will make because they are selling high-end IP phones with large screens for users who really only need cheap IP phones with two-line displays.

With the convergence of voice and data, and the rollout of broadband wired and wireless networks, it’s inevitable some devices will become redundant. If the Ciscos, Avayas and RIMs of the world want to continue increasing sales long-term, they’re going to have to compete with desktop PCs.

After all, why should users have desktop PCs when they have palm-sized machines and notebook PCs? Why put a unified communications device on your desktop when you have phones with computing power? One reason, which Gartner takes into account, is the proprietary development environments of IP phones. There’s also the advantage of the keyboard, versus a phone dialpad.Clearly, IP phones have a long way to go if they’re going to become all-encompassing communications devices. The same goes for a lot of handhelds. But if the manufacturers play their cards right, IP phones and wireless handhelds could become viable alternatives to PCs. Will VoIP and wireless let you do away with your PC? Send us your predication, at

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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