Logitech Provides New Tools For “Portable UC”
Many years ago, I wrote an article about end user communications needs when “standing up or sitting down.” This was in the very early days of UC and mobility, when business users had only laptops and cell phones to communicate when away from their desks. I was primarily concerned about the user interface experience when the end user is on the go, but still needs communication and information access while away from a PC desktop.
A few years later, I blogged about the role that wireless tablets could play, when mobile users need larger screens and online information access than could be provided by small, handheld smartphones or heavy laptops. However, the “softphone” interface of tablets without keyboards, although very flexible, doesn’t really lend itself to fast, error free performance in quickly handling incoming phone calls, messaging or video exchanges. With the recent “UC Keyboard” announcement by PC desktop accessory provider Logitech, initially for use with Cisco’s Jabber soft client, they have combined a standard USB keyboard with additional “hard keys” to directly control nine basic real-time communication functions.
Logitech’s UC Desktop Accessories – More “Nails” in the Desktop Phone Coffin
Desktop “hard” phones are relatively easy to use, but they don’t really do too much for a multi-modal UC environment. What makes them “easy” to use, especially for dialing outbound phone numbers, are the simple feature buttons for telephony control functions. As those telephony functions became integrated with “contextual” intelligence and multimedia UC enablement for PCs and multi-modal smartphones, the call controls became more complex and difficult for fast, ease of use. It was time to bridge the gap between the simple button set of TUI controls and the screen-based “smarts” of UC-enabled software interfaces. That is precisely the gap that the Logitech “UC Keyboard” fills for desktop PCs and portable wireless tablets.
In addition to simplifying inbound call control functions for a desktop PC, the Logitech offering also extends such controls to audio and video conferencing with its basic nine “hard” control keys. To further expand its UC capabilities when you are sitting down to conference with remote participants, Logitech also offers a portable, HD-capable webcam for video conferencing.
During our recent UCStrategies Experts podcast discussion with Eric Kintz, Senior VP and GM at Logitech for Business, he indicated that their solution would eventually support a variety of wireless tablets that are starting to replace portable laptops for mobile users. While not as “mobile” as handheld smartphones, portable, wireless tablets have a strong role for mobile users in sitting down to do business, including using all forms of communications interactions. The tablet market is exploding rapidly for both business users and consumers, and is therefore in need of convenient, UC-enabled services.
Business Use Cases
There are obviously several types of business activities where end users can benefit from the increased ease of use and operational efficiency that Logitech’s new portable UC Keyboard and webcam offer. In addition, remote teleworkers, as well as mobile consumers, who have to stay in touch wherever they are, will like these devices as part of their personal adoption of tablets. I consider Logitech’s offering as part of the “BYOD” syndrome, where all end users will decide how they want to control their communication interfaces.
However, one of the biggest targets for the UC Keyboard offering, will be around the UC-enabled “Interaction Center,” where it will be critical to integrate online self-service and mobile applications with on demand, multi-modal contact with live assistance. While customers may be sometimes mobile, standing up or sitting down, customer service agents will always be sitting down and field support personnel will probably always be on the move. So, having the flexibility for supporting these different end users consistently across desktops and mobile tablets, will benefit everyone involved in a customer service process.
Other vertical markets where fast and simple communication controls for shared PCs by employees will be of interest include:
- Health care
- Financial services
- Retail operations, where personnel are moving around
- “Hot Desking” for any business where some employees don’t have a permanent “office” desk
Although this first offering integrates with Cisco’s Jabber (IM and Presence), we would expect that Logitech will eventually provide support for other popular UC clients (MS Lync, Avaya). The lack of adequate standards, of course, is still a big part of the problem.
Also on UCStrategies.com on this topic: