Jan 162011
An Olivetti rotary dial telephone, c.1940s
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Headsets could make many office landline phones unnecessary

HEADSETS are staples for call-center workers, travel agents and many other people who have to talk frequently on the phone. With a headset to listen and speak through, both hands are free to work, and a shoulder needn’t stiffen to cradle the phone.

Now, headsets could make many office landline phones unnecessary, as businesses decide to route calls through their office computers.

Companies can save money by simply buying employees headsets instead of desktop phones, said Tavis McCourt, a managing director and analyst at Morgan Keegan, who follows the Internet telephony market. Software like Lync from Microsoft makes it possible to use the Internet and your computer to make phone calls.

The computers common in most offices aren’t ideal for conducting a conversation, said Gregory Burns, a telecommunications analyst at Sidoti & Company, an equity research firm in New York. Desktop computers can have built-in microphones and speakers, but the conversations can distract people in nearby cubicles, just like those on speaker phones.

All of this has created a business opportunity for headset manufacturers, which are now ready to offer sleek new models that plug into desktops, laptops or notebooks for quiet conversations and conference calls. Some of the new headsets switch easily among desk phones, computers and even cellphones.

“Put on your headset, and it gives you access to whatever device you choose to use,” said Bob Hafner, a managing vice president at Gartner, the marketing research firm in Stamford, Conn. The move toward PC telephony will gain ground quickly in coming years, he said, as people increasingly communicate by computer, clicking on the names of people they want to reach, for example, instead of dialing them.

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