IT managers will take complete responsibility for office telephony systems while the office phone will be replaced by connected PDAs, Hewlett Packard (HP) has predicted.
As wireless local area networks and Voice over IP (VoIP) applications become more widely deployed, hybrid PDAs with Wi-Fi and 3G capabilities could replace traditional PBX office telephones and possibly even PCs, leaders at HP's labs in California believe.
HP's vision sees staff with minimal computing needs - email and calendaring, for example - switching to a voice-enabled handheld device instead of a PC and a phone. Heavier users could keep a PC and a voice-enabled PDA.
Once IP roaming protocols are established, the devices will simply choose the most convenient connection as users move around the office.
Brice Clark, worldwide director of strategy and planning at HP, claimed that the biggest barrier to the vision is not the technology but the billing systems of telecoms companies.
"Some companies [in Silicon Valley] are looking to start this today," he said. "Although, for those at the end of the adoption curve, it could be a decade before such systems are in place.
"Companies will save from reduced staff headcount once PBX technology is removed."
Clark added that he did not envisage large-scale take-up of just VoIP, but sees such systems as part of a greater move towards the convergence of network applications.
While this will initially mean more work for IT managers, network functions are going to have to be increasingly automated if crucial network stability is to be maintained.
Automatic user identification and profile building are the first targets, with virtual private network and patching tools expected soon.
Research this year from IDC shows that enterprises are increasingly buying large volumes of PDAs, rather than leaving staff to purchase them individually.
Over a third of the companies surveyed indicated that they are ordering workforce PDAs in volume.
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