Audio endpoints are devices which are used by organizations for communications. USB audio end points are now considered soft phones which only require a USB connection to your computer and access to your favorite unified communications software. These include system phones with VoIP capabilities, microphones, speakers, headsets and so on. Large corporations use VoIP phones designed specifically for meeting rooms and can be connected to Lync servers now with professional level Skype for Business servers. These phones are also connected to a telephone service provider and are available through partnered resellers. But as technology changes, small and medium enterprises are looking for a more affordable solutions and thus the rise of USB soft phones is upon us.
Unified Communication solutions now range from USB headsets to dedicated USB soft phone devices for a 1/3 the third price traditional VoIP phone systems.
Since most of the companies are moving forward with video conferencing as their primary tool for communications, it is not necessary that you invest in expensive audio endpoints such as Cisco VoIP phones for unified communications anymore. Professionals can use good quality headsets and microphones to achieve the same result. Unified Communication solutions now range from USB headsets to dedicated USB soft phone devices for a 1/3 the third price traditional VoIP phone systems.
For video conferencing from you desktop all you need is a webcam and a USB headset or soft phone. In the conference room a similar revolution is underway where the hardware is for cameras and speakerphones are going USB or Bluetooth. These are used to connect to some of the most widely used video conferencing tools such as Skype for Business (formerly Lync), Cisco Jabber and WebEx.
Cisco provides a complete solution for VTC as well as telephony but charges a high premium. The advantage of using audio endpoints or softphones is that you can save thousands of dollars which can be invested in other things such as a better camera and a larger display in your conference room.
Microsoft certifies certain products which are ideal to use with Skype for Business and the certifications are not limited to high-end devices. Third party manufacturers also produce certified products such as microphones, telephony systems and speakers. And these devices can be connected to your Skype for Business server to allow VoIP calls as well as PSTN calls. When Microsoft does certify a product for Skype for Business the device must meet certain minimum requirements set by Microsoft and the manufacture often includes integrations for controlling the Skype for Business client such as a mute button or end call button.
For more private conversations, users can use headsets with built-in microphones for Lync calls. Skype for Business acts as a softphone that allows you to call anyone from your contacts via internet. Businesses invest a good amount of money in Skype for Business services to get the optimal experience.
Unified Communications offer IP desk phones from certified Microsoft partners such as Polycom, Plantronics, Snom and so on. These phones are equipped with speakers and microphones for group and private calls. They have caller ID functions and can be connected to the in-house PSTN or internet servers.
IBM and Microsoft both are supporting softphones in comparison to desk phones because they are cost effective and serve the same purpose. Desk phones offer a familiar face which everyone is used to but they are a costly investment because they need to be hard wired to every employee's desk and dedicated lines are not cheap. On the other hand, softphone is a just software which is downloaded on your laptop, smartphone or tablet and it delivers the same features as a desk phone. It offers additional features such as video calling and IM in Skype for Business as well.
Also with the introduction of Skype for Business, Microsoft has integrated it with Office 365 which allow users to call anyone without leaving the productivity suite. For a most effective solution, softphones are an excellent choice for any organization. Desk phones also have high maintenance and operational costs compared to softphones.
Similarly, softphones have a wide range of headsets which can be either USB or analog depending on the consumer choice. Mobile operators will also push softphones in favor of desk phones because they want more users on the mobile platform rather than desk telephony systems. The only issue is the transition to softphones from desk phones which has become a bottleneck. Most organizations are not ready for the transition because they are usually desk bound but since we live a connected age and in-person meetings are being taken over by video conferencing, it won't be long till softphones will take over desk phones in the future.
Hardware for softphones is cheap, delivers better performance and offers a more convenient experience. You can use your smartphone as a softphone when you are on-the- go or add anyone in the video meeting by a simple dial on the screen.
Desktops were replaced by laptops and laptops are now being replaced by tablets or 2-in-1 hybrid devices. Consumers demand more connectivity and functionality from their devices along with portability. There are thousands of hardware components to choose from for softphones and users can choose the hardware that suits their needs. They don't have to spend a lot of money to get the best experience because they can get the same experience at half the price.