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Plantronics Unifies Calls Across Phone, PC, Mobile

Plantronics Savi 740
(click image for larger view)
Plantronics Savi 740

Plantronics On Wednesday introduced a series of high-end headsets designed to smoothly transition calls between mobile and desk phones or PC telephony, while also aiming to make the wearer look good on video.

The Savi 700 series of headsets and the Savi 740 model are specifically designed for unified communications environments. Plantronics also released a free plug-in for IBM's Sametime communication and collaboration software. Plantronics has made a series of unified communications announcements in the past few months.

Wednesday's product launch event at the New York Stock Exchange coincided with the 50th anniversary of the founding of Plantronics, which started out building headsets for the likes of airline pilots and air traffic controllers before it began designing them for business people. Plantronics President and CEO Ken Kannappan said the company is updating its product line for a workplace where "virtual meetings are becoming more common and more capable." When people connect remotely, voice quality is particularly important for understanding tone of voice and plays a big role in how people decide whether to trust each other, he said.

Steve Rubinow, CIO of the New York Stock Exchange, participated in the event, crediting Plantronics with creating just the types of devices needed in the busy, noisy, and increasingly mobile environment of traders and other stock exchange workers like himself. "If you came to my desk, you might see a tablet computer, a smart phone, and a headset all going at the same time," he said.

Plantronics said the Savi 700 series headsets are designed for people who switch between many modes of communication throughout the day, allowing them to start a call on their mobile phone while running back to the office, switch the call to a PC or desk phone when they get back to their desk, and conference in another employee via unified communications. The Savi 740 will let you and walk around the office untethered, making and answering calls from up 350 feet away from the wireless base station connected to your PC.

"Any line could be ringing, whether it's on your mobile phone, your PC, or your desk phone, and you will be able to pick up the headset and enjoy that phone call," said Bill Loewenthal, vice president of unified communications for Plantronics. All of the new headsets introduced Wednesday also included swappable wearing accessories for an over-the-head, over-the-ear, or behind-the-head look--with the later two intended to be stylishly unobtrusive for video calls. "They're designed to be worn, so they have to look good and feel good," Loewenthal said.

Plantronics also is trying to make the headset itself a force for unification and integration. For example, if a business operates a conventional PBX phone switch in addition to unified communications gear, a Plantronics user can still, by punching a couple of buttons, link an outside caller with an employee reached over unified communications together on the same phone call. Similarly, Plantronics said it can help unify presence detection across software that is not natively integrated today, such as Skype and Microsoft Lync, so connections on the other system can see when you're on the phone.

The plug-in for IBM Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony was announced as a free download. It offers presence integration, including the ability to update a Sametime user's presence when that person is using their mobile phone or a Skype session. In addition, users can control Sametime call sessions remotely while walking around the office.

The Savi 700 series is priced at $379.95 to $399.95 and will be available in June.

Plantronics also introduced the Savi 440, a USB headset for PC telephony with a wireless range of up to 300 feet; the Blackwire 435, a corded USB headset with similar webcam-friendly styling; and the CS500, a wireless headset for use with desktop phones that has a range of up to 350 feet.

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