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October 01, 2009

Plantronics Targets Contact Center with New SIP Endpoint Device


By Michael Dinan
SIP Trunking Report Editor

On a day that Cisco rocked the IP communications world by announcing that it’s buying video conferencing company TANDBERG for about $3 billion, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based maker of corded and wireless products for unified communications is launching new UC devices that expand its reach into the contact center.

 
Officials at Plantronics Inc. say their so-called “IP40” SIP endpoint device for the contact center connects agent headsets directly to the Ethernet to unify contact center software applications with all inbound and outbound call activity.
 
According to Nick Eisner, the company’s director of contact center product management, the device meets a dire segment need for robust, quality audio.
 
“Customers tell us they want to simplify and drive call control to the workstation application to ensure that their quality systems capture every move an agent makes,” Eisner said. “The IP40 leverages the customer’s investment in VoIP and SIP, eliminating the telephone on the agent’s desk but without compromising the robustness of the voice path. It also reduces power consumption and optimizes audio quality for intelligibility; less is truly more.”
 
Pictured below, the endpoint device connects directly to the Ethernet, eliminating the need for a desk phone while avoiding reliance on the PC to process voice, previously the only other option. It is designed specifically for the heavy traffic loads and premium voice quality requirements found in contact centers, company officials say.
 
The IP40 (MSRP $189) is a plug-and-play standalone device controlled by the contact center routing engine. It registers with the SIP proxy upon start up, and is controlled from the contact center software application, according to Plantronics. Integrating the IP40 with contact center applications helps improve collaboration and workflow management among agents and managers so they can provide better customer service. For example, agents using the IP40 initiate all calls through the contact center software application which ensures all call actions are accurately recorded for management.
 
Analysts like what they’re seeing.
 
According to Drew Kraus research vice president at IT market research firm Gartner, one of the early payoffs for adopting SIP-enabled IP telephony in contact centers will be the ability to dramatically lower agent terminal costs.
 
“The ability to directly connect agent headsets to the LAN, doing away with desk phones or PCs as voice path devices, should be of great interest to contact center planners and IT departments as they look to lower infrastructure costs,” Kraus said.
 
It’s been a busy day for people in Kraus’ line of work, as analysts weigh in on Cisco’s landmark announcement of a TANDBERG acquisition.
 
The acquisition opens up the mainstream market to Cisco, which will now go head-to-head with Polycom. TANDBERG represents 40 percent of the video conference market, where as Polycom represents 34 percent, according to Wainhouse Research.
 
“It’s a two-horse horserace with Cisco/Tandberg versus Polycom,” Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner, Wainhouse Research LLC, told TMCnet in an interview today. “For Polycom, this means that a company that was already difficult to compete with is now going to be much more powerful. This is going to make the playing field more difficult for them.”
 
“This will change the discussions of every video conferencing deal going forward,” Weinstein added.
 
Meanwhile, officials at one global supplier of contact center solutions, INOVO Telecom, already have tested the IP40 product from Plantronics and say they “simply love” it.
 
“It not only significantly reduces complexity for the operator but is very easy to install and maintain,” said Eugene Schalkwyk, chief technology officer at INOVO. “The market has been asking for a unit like this for a long time and we can finally offer a high quality and cost effective SIP device.”

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan
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