‘You can spend millions on the network but if the last 3ft of quality is really bad …’
Challenges: Bandwidth and the fact PCs not optimised for calls amidst ambient noise
AUDIO solutions brand Jabra, a wholly owned company of GN Netcom, has launched its Evolve series of professional headsets, saying its larger goal was to help accelerate the adoption of unified communications (UC) tools within the enterprise.
According to IDC, South-East Asia’s Unified Communications (UC) On-Premise Infrastructure market grew 6.4% year-on-year (YoY) in the first half of 2014, and is expected to grow to US$652.8 million in 2018, at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6%.
Singapore continues to be the largest market with US$57.1 million recorded in the first half of 2014, followed by Malaysia with US$44.6 million.
The Philippines was in third place with US$40.2 million, Indonesia with US$37.4 million, Thailand with US$32.3 million and Vietnam with US$12.5 million.
Tan Hwee Xian, market analyst at IDC's Asia/Pacific Communications Group, noted that adoption for UC managed services and cloud-based UC will continue to be the strongest in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, “co-existing with the continuous growth of on-premise infrastructure market as a hybrid deployment model.”
“This moves UC up in the IT agenda to a more encouraging commonplace of adoption," he added.
Speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) during the Evolve launch event in Singapore, Jabra’s Asia Pacific president Mark Leigh (pic above) said that with many enterprises embracing UC to better enable their employees, the need for good devices increases.
“You can spend millions on the network but if the last three feet of quality is really bad, then your investment’s not very good,” he argued.
It is not only the investment made, Leigh said, but adoption rate of employees using UC as well, for generally the return on investment (ROI) with UC deployment is high.
“It’s a very quick ROI. The challenge is getting people to stop using the telephone on the desk and start using the PC instead. Many have made the decision to use UC but the rollout has been slower than anticipated.
“For example, a company headquartered in the United States has decided to adopt it globally but it takes a while for the Asian operations to adopt. Traditionally, it takes about six months but it’s actually taking longer,” he added.
There are two key reasons for resistance, according to Leigh, with the first being bandwidth concerns around getting a good enough quality signal to make calls; and the second being the fact that PCs are not optimised for taking calls amidst ambient noises.
“What we’ve found is that by pairing UC solutions with a good device, the adoption rate goes up dramatically. That’s why we’ve been working closely with vendors to seed and test the different devices – be it the headsets or speakerphones,” he said.
With its new range of headsets targeted at the office environment, Jabra is hoping to accelerate that adoption rate.
Cutting down on workplace distractions
According to a survey commissioned by Jabra and conducted by Linberg International, 69% of respondents highlighted distraction as the largest challenge in the open offices, which leads to degraded productivity.
“Studies show that knowledge workers are interrupted every 10 minutes. We have designed the Jabra Evolve series with both the employer and user in mind, delivering a vital solution to improve return on investment through increased workplace productivity and accelerated user adoption,” said Ben Samman, Jabra’s managing director for Asean.
Through advanced noise-cancellation technologies, the Evolve series aims to enhance productivity by offering a personal ‘concentration zone.’
It offers an assortment of features and benefits through its five models – 20, 30, 40, 65 and 80. The range is intended to enable employers and workers alike to more effectively address a broad range of collaboration and concentration needs in the open office or virtual office – at home or ‘on the go.’
Key features include:
Noise Cancellation: Large ear cushions with specially designed foam adapting the padding to the individual, blocking office noise.
The flagship Evolve 80 model offers additional noise cancellation with an around-the-ear wearing style and is touted as the industry’s first professional headset offering active noise cancellation to give a full concentration zone experience.
Busy light: Built into the headphones, the busy light indicator effectively signals availability to colleagues.
Made for music and voice: Incorporates high-end sound quality for both professional communication and entertainment.
Designed for mobility: Built-in Bluetooth capability for the Evolve 65 along with plug-and-play options for PCs or mobile devices for other models through USB and 3.5mm stereo jack stick outputs.
Leigh said that with this new range, Jabra hopes to capitalise on the growing consumerisation of IT in the workplace and offer knowledge workers an ideal solution, especially when it comes to melding voice and music quality.
“At the end of the day, it’s about new ways of working – a design engineer could be listening to a playlist while working and when a call comes in, he or she just has to flip the microphone down and after that, go right back to their music without any loss in audio quality for either activity,” he said.
The series is now available and will be sold through Jabra Business Solutions partners with prices starting from S$63.50 (US$50.79).
Evolution of the Asian market
While there exists competition from Asia-based manufacturers, in the category of communications peripherals, Leigh said Jabra’s key differentiator was not only its quality, but also certification with all major UC vendors.
“Music headphones are not optimised for voice calls while headsets for calls are not great for music – and also need to be certified for use in the workplace.
“If you’re talking to your boss in the United States, first of all you need to be approved because if you’re connecting to a work network, the products need to be approved and recognised by the vendor, be it Microsoft, Cisco or Avaya,” he added.
Leigh said all of the company’s products enjoy that certification, with Jabra being only “one of three vendors” in the world that does.
While Jabra may be very well positioned to capture a significant slice of the pie, in Asia there still remain many challenges that need to be overcome.
Leigh shared that while European and North American markets have long become accustomed to the presence and use of headsets in the office, it remains a small market in Asia – mainly used within the Asian operations of global companies rather than deployed in large local corporations.
“The other challenge in Asia is price. In Europe and the United States they’ve been using headsets for years, so companies there see the value in investing in such devices for their employee.
“They put a high quality headset on your desk, you use it and the person on the other end hears you nicely,” he said.
When the company talks to some of these deployments in Asia, mainly in markets outside of Singapore, Japan or Australia, with large backend operations and thousands of employees, they want a US$30 product or below.
“Now we’re saying that’s fine but if you want to get the most out of your employees, you need to invest in them. You can see the difference – for example, we were talking to companies in Germany, and they really liked the active noise cancellation feature and thought it was great.
“Now that particular product is over US$300 per employee and the guy thinks it’s cheap and wants to deploy it with all his staff – because a US$300 investment into an employee is not a lot of money in Germany or even Singapore when you look at other things like salary, and it’ll last you a few years,” said Leigh.
For other countries in Asia however, such an investment won’t be made as it depends highly on the maturity level of people who have used headsets and see the advantage of good quality products.
Leigh did note that in the call centre space, a growing industry in the region, the seating of call agents closer together has made quality headsets that cut down on ambient noise all the more important.
“People who are new to UC and using headsets will start at the low end. My expectation and forecast is that we’ll see people coming up the curve, going from corded to wireless, then better featured headsets as we go forward,” he said.
He believes this evolution will take quite a while, with the need for UC usage to mature and for market conditions and connectivity regulations in certain countries to change over time as well.
The company is committed however, with Leigh claiming that Jabra has already received high interest in the region for the new product range.
“It’s about education and it’s a process,” he said.
Continuous growth for SEA on-premise UC infra market: IDC
Embrace API development to boost UC: Tata Communications
APAC Unified Communications as a Service market prospers: IDC
Mid-sized contact centres get turnkey solution to manage customer experience
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