Organizations are taking cues from consumers regarding how best to communicate these days, an executive for a global provider of communications products told TMCnet in an interview.
Tim Whittington, senior vice president and general manager, of Aastra USA, said the popularity of smartphones and VoIP technology is with consumers is migrating into the business world. And as a result, demand for devices and the technology that support them will rise.
“Consumers are depending more and more on their mobile devices for sources of information, entertainment, as well as all forms of communication,” Whittington told TMC (News - Alert) CEO Rich Tehrani in an interview printed in full below. “Trends and behaviors from the consumer side ultimately make their way into the business environment, so we can expect the demand for business applications on the mobile device to grow rapidly over the next few years.”
Whittington, whose company is exhibiting at ITEXPO Sept. 1 to 3, also said strong demand remains for wireless access to be ubiquitously available, and that WiFi (News - Alert) is one of the technologies that help achieve that goal.
Their full exchange follows.
Rich Tehrani: What has the economic crisis taught you, and how has it changed your customers?
Tim Whittington (pictured left): The current crisis has reminded us how important it is to stay on track with the values and fundamentals that has allowed us to be successful to date. We have always been a very customer-centric company, delivering high quality products, servicing our customers and paying close attention to the financial management of the company to ensure we remain a viable, long term partner for our customers. As far as how the crisis has affected our customers, we certainly are seeing them being more cautious with their spending on new systems. Existing customers are asking us for solutions to extend the life of their existing systems a bit longer and smart ways to benefits from additional features and applications without a forklift investment. New customers are interested in value and quality: in both situations, Aastra is strongly positioned to meet those requirements.
RT: How is this down economy affecting your decisions to reinvest in your company or market, if at all? Where will you invest?
TW: Aastra has always been a well-managed company and now has 45 consecutive quarters of profitability, cash in the bank and virtually no long term debt. During ups in the economy, we keep in mind that downs will follow; we manage to that and as a result we don’t need to make wholesale changes in the way we invest in our business today.
RT: What’s the strongest segment in the communications industry?
TW: There is a lot of migration to VoIP taking place, especially to systems based on open standard SIP. With all the flux taking place in the industry today, CIOs want to make sure they don’t get locked into proprietary solutions.
RT: With the rise of smartphones and netbooks, many wireless technologies, such as WiFi, appear to be poised for rapid growth. For example, we’re seeing more and more airlines add in-flight WiFi. In general, how widespread should WiFi be, in your view?
There is a strong demand for wireless access to be ubiquitously available, and WiFi is just one of the technologies that can be used to help achieve this. I would agree that WiFi is poised for rapid growth, and we have recently released our new 312w WiFi phone in anticipation of this demand.
In addition to WiFi, we are also seeing more demand for DECT (News - Alert) in the U.S., just as it has been very successful in Europe. Along those lines, we also recently released a new family of DECT handsets.
RT: Which nation or region of the world will present the largest opportunity for your company in 2009/10?
TW: As the enterprise communications industry is becoming increasingly global, Aastra’s acquisition of Ericsson Enterprise Communications Business successfully completed last year was an opportunity to expand our market presence and distribution channels in and beyond markets where we already have a market presence such as Western Europe and North America.
Aastra is now a global vendor with a direct and indirect presence in more than 100 countries, including in emerging markets (such as CALA, MEA, and CEE, APAC) these regions offer promising medium and long term prospects.
You also need to bear in mind that Aastra has a strong installed base – that’s a substantial benefit and revenue opportunity especially when customer acquisition can be hugely expensive. We want to protect our customer’s existing investments in such products and offering a continuous migration path as well as innovative value-add solutions to their businesses. As customers are looking for a cost efficient way to move to more advanced enterprise communications, this puts Aastra in a even better situation to continue to support their needs for years to come.
RT: In what ways is President Barack Obama helping or hindering the technology markets? What more can he do?
TW: It remains to be seen what the long term effect on the markets will be. In the short term, though, the stimulus package will drive increased spending for broadband infrastructure, networking, storage and related IT infrastructure.
RT: What device or devices do you use, and what do you wish you used?
TW: I travel a lot, and therefore I am very dependent on my smartphone in conjunction with our Clearspan Anywhere capabilities. This allows me to work anywhere, use any phone such as my mobile phone, home phone, hotel phone, etc., and I have the same features and capabilities as if I were using my desk phone. And, of course, I get my e-mail on my phone so I can work virtually anywhere.
RT: What has the iPhone 3G taught us? I know it’s very new, but what about the Palm Pre? What are we learning from the smartphones based on the open source Google Android (News - Alert) platform?
TW: It has taught us that consumers are depending more and more on their mobile devices for sources of information, entertainment, as well as all forms of communication: voice, e-mail, texting, chat, etc. Trends and behaviors from the consumer side ultimately make their way into the business environment; so we can expect the demand for business applications on the mobile device to grow rapidly over the next few years.
RT: I understand you are exhibiting Sept. 1 to 3 at ITEXPO West in Los Angeles. What will you show there? Describe the companies or people who should come to your exhibit.
TW: We are demonstrating our new WiFi phone, our new DECT handsets, our Aastra Hi-Q wideband audio, which is now available as a free software upgrade for all of our 67xi series phones, and our AastraLink Pro IP-PBX (News - Alert) for small businesses. We are interested in talking to our resellers or prospective resellers.
RT: Why should customers choose your company’s solutions? How do they justify the expense to management?
TW: Aastra is committed to delivering high quality, cost effective solutions. We also have a strong commitment to open standards so that customers are not locked into proprietary solutions that could quickly become obsolete as the market evolves. And, as a financially strong company, Aastra will continue to be around to support our customers for many years to come.
Learn more about Aastra at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Visit Aastra at booth #212 in the exhibit hall. Don’t wait. Register now.
Follow ITEXPO on Twitter: twitter.com/itexpo
Amy Tierney is a Web editor for TMCnet, covering unified communications, telepresence, IP communications industry trends and mobile technologies. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan