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Softphones The Next Must-Have For Enterprises

We may be getting ahead of the curve again here, but I'm betting it won't take more than a few years for softphones to gain serious traction, especially for mobile enterprise users.

In the short term, today's announcement from Skype probably only means that we'll now see those Starbucks laptop dudes adding earphones plugged into their PDAs as a fashion accessory. But over the longer term, the combination of Voice over IP back-end technologies and software that puts a telephone on your PC (or PDA) means your entire work personage can now become mobile, eliminating many of the productivity roadblocks that exist today once you leave the office and its warm, fuzzy, IT-approved and maintained broadband connection.

If history is any guide, once people start using things like a Skype PDA phone on their own, they'll want it at work, and just like with cell phones and PDAs, enterprise IT will be called on to support, distribute and maintain the technology. The possible payback here is that with a unified IP infrastructure, it'll be easier for IT to administer usage and cost of such services, or to get volume discounts. Plus, enterprise users might now be able to stuff their office phone and all its accoutrements (voice mail, messaging, conferencing) into their laptop bag, making them more productive when they're not at their "desks."

All this functionality, of course, has been promised before. Is it finally happening? That's one of the things we'll keep watching for as the story unfolds. If you've got a softphone story to tell, don't keep it to yourself: Let me know, by contacting me here.