Jabra’s Speak 810 is a loud and clear expansion into office boardrooms
By Keith Liu October 16, 2015
- Owns around 70% of the global personal speakerphone market
- Trend towards unified communications solutions driving growth
JABRA, the brand from privately-held audio device maker GN Netcom, may be more well-known to consumers for its Bluetooth headsets, but the company has a solid hold of the commercial headsets market as well, providing these PC-based voice communication gear to call centers and corporate clients.
In the past few years, the Danish communications firm has ventured into the growing market for speakerphones that hook up to laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) at the global launch event of its Speak 810 teleconference product on Oct 6 in Singapore, GN Netcom’s President of Asia Pacific, Mark Leigh said, “These devices have been very popular in the last, probably 2 to 3 years.”
Referencing its current models, the Speak 410 (US$130) and Bluetooth-enabled Speak 510 (US$150), Leigh added, “Jabra has done exceptionally well in personal conferencing speakers, we estimate we’ve probably got around 70% of the global market.”
Both these circular-shaped palm-sized speakers seem to be popular due to the sleek design and ability to deliver good sound quality on both sides of the call.
Nick Humphrey, an associate director from UBS AG’s IT division which employs both Jabra and teleconferencing systems from Polycom, told DNA at the event, “We are using more Jabra at the moment, not just personal headsets but also the 510… they are a bit more mobile, the Bluetooth on the 510 is excellent, it’s a bit more reliable, and sexier as well.”
Leigh said the demand for these products have skyrocketed due to an increasing number of business executives who take work home or who travel frequently.
“Conference calls happen all times of the day and night. Often if you work for an American company it’s night time in Asia, European company it’s afternoon time, so in the evening when you do your conference call you’re not going to sit in the office and wait for your call, you go home.
“if you have a study at home, you can put the speakerphone in there you can use it, you put in on mute when other people are talking while you multi-task or have a glass of wine,” he quipped.
Experienced conference call participants know how important volume control and mute functions are, so Jabra has built-in LED (light emitting diode) indicators on the Speak series to provide additional visual cues.
On the Speak 410 and 510 models, white lights around the speaker unit indicates the strength of the volume while a red light is emitted when the participant is muted.
Along the rim, you’ll find capacitive buttons for the call functions, as well as volume controls and a mute switch. Indicators for Bluetooth wireless connectivity and the 15-hour rechargeable battery are also present on the Speak 510 unit.
Ideal for a small room with about 5 to 6 participants, these speakerphones also come with an omnidirectional microphone to pick up sound from around the unit and a USB connection to connect to PC softphone clients like Skype.
A 3.5mm audio port is also present on the Speak 510 to connect a headset to the speakerphone, in case the call needs to be done privately.
The launch of the Speak 810 then, a US$599 speakerphone, brings many of these functions to an enterprise-class unit to support larger conference rooms and group calls, as more companies deploy unified communications (UC) solutions on their PCs and mobiles, instead of fixed line teleconference systems.
“You can deploy UC but if you don’t have good devices, then the ROI (return on investment) on deploying that network can be low, because people get frustrated talking into a PC – it’s not the friendliest way,” Leigh said.
“Put a good device with it, then you get a much higher usage of UC because people can now hear and respond better and that gives you a higher ROI”.
Like its smaller siblings, the Speak 810 comes with a USB cable to connect up to laptops, but it’s the additional support for smart devices that impresses.
The Speak 810 ditches the rechargeable battery but it comes with a charging port to provide extra juice to smartphones and tablets. A 3.5mm jack cable is available to connect the call from these mobile devices as well, in case Bluetooth isn’t preferred.
Instead of an omnidirectional microphone, the Speak 810 is endowed with what Jabra calls a ‘Zoom Talk’ microphone which the company claims can intelligently decide where the voice is coming from and separate it from the ambient noise.
The demonstration at the event unfortunately, didn’t manage to pull this off effectively in a relatively large ballroom.
A Kensington lock to secure the Speak 810 within the conference room completes the package.
According to another customer DNA spoke with at the event, Ragavendiran Ranganathan, a senior systems engineer with Bosch who is evaluating the Speak 810 for deployment in his company, the product’s Skype-certified status was an important factor in selecting Jabra.
“Since we are going for Skype, we need to look for Microsoft Skype-certified ones to avoid any operational issues,” he explained.
He also noted that many of the products that already come with IP telephony features built in (from traditional players such as Polycom and Cisco) haven’t yet received approvals from telecommunications regulators in India, for example.
Speakerphones don’t have such limitations since they are not essentially telephony products but come under the USB-based audio device category. However, it's clear that these aren't stand-alone teleconferencing solutions, but part of a larger investment in UC.
Still, GN Netcom isn’t going to be drawn on how many units it’s expecting to move or whether such products will eventually make up a larger portion of its sales mix.
Leigh did share that while its headsets being sold into the call centre market is flattening out, it’s Bluetooth powered products are still growing fast.
As for the Speak 810, he admitted that it’s currently hard to predict, saying, “It’s a new market segment, we’re pioneering into this sector. [But] we feel there is a good requirement for this type of product”.
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