Savi Office from Plantronics Streamlines Unified Communications

 
 
By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2009-03-17
 
 
 

Savi Office from Plantronics Streamlines Unified Communications


With its new Savi Office line of wireless desktop headsets, Plantronics looks to solve the last 10 feet of unified communications deployments, providing users with an easy way to blend and bridge the audio from both the PC and the desktop phone.

At its heart, Savi Office is just a wireless headset solution that can be simultaneously connected to a desk phone (via a handset cable) and the PC (via USB). Users can switch between audio sources simply by depressing a button on the wireless headset component. Tested to work with the major PC media players and softphones, a switch between communications channels automatically pauses media playback or answers incoming calls.

While this functionality is useful-analysts predict the consumption of rich media and the use of softphones in the enterprise will increase significantly over the next few years-the list price of $380 for Savi Office seems steep just to cut cable or headset clutter on workers' desks. Fortunately, Savi Office introduces a software layer that allows much more functionality.

Click here for a look at Plantronics' Savi Office solution.

Plantronics offers Savi Office in a couple form factors, both of which I got to try out during a recent prelaunch demonstration. The Savi Office Convertible (WO100) comes with a wide microphone and thin earpiece, while the over-the-ear (WO200) model has a wider earpiece and a more slender microphone. Both form factors work with the same base station, as the base station has a swappable, modular battery connector. Base stations can also be paired with more than one headset.

Savi Office devices come with the PerSono Suite, which can be used to control device behavior with supported telephony and media applications. It also gives the user power to bridge content between communication channels. When using PerSono, users can easily play back audio content from the PC to a caller on the desk phone, bridge calls between a softphone and the desk phone-allowing the user to basically host a conference between a land line and a VOIP (voice over IP) network like Skype-or easily record calls placed on the desk phone.

While I liked the flexibility for ad-hoc connections between communications channels that PerSono provides, I found the application took up too much screen space for the limited amount of function it provides. I would like to see Plantronics re-engineer the application to come as tool bar or as a plug-in for supported third-party partner applications.

Unfortunately, the PerSono Suite is only available for Microsoft Windows-based PCs, although Plantronics claims Apple Mac users will still be able to use Savi Offices devices as a headset. They just won't be able to control many behaviors of the Savi Office solution. Sadly, the battery indicator for the headset is only available as part of the PerSono Suite, not on the base station or headset.

Greater Range Than Bluetooth


 

Savi Office utilizes DECT 6.0 for transmissions between the base station and headset, promising much greater range capabilities (the documentation claims up to 350 feet) than would be possible if using Bluetooth technology. As called for by the DECT standard, wireless transmissions can be protected using 64-bit encryption.

Savi Office utilizes adaptive power algorithms, allowing the device to sense proximity to the base station, dialing back power utilization when it is not needed. 

During my demonstration, Plantronics representatives made sure to highlight the wideband audio capabilities of the Savi Office line. With wideband support enabled, I found that music from PC-based media players sounded much deeper and richer than when in narrowband mode.

However, use with telephony is a bit more of a mixed bag. Standard POTS lines or extensions from a TDM PBX only support narrowband calls, so the wideband support on the headset adds little to no benefit. But Skype users or those in companies supporting wideband IP telephony (in the core and on the desk or softphone) will notice a significant improvement in call quality.

Users control the use of wideband audio from the PerSono Suite (so Mac users cannot control this feature), but they should be aware that use of wideband audio will have a significant impact on battery life. Plantronics representatives expect use of wideband audio will cut battery life approximately in half.

Plantronics has partnered with several enterprise-grade communications providers (including Microsoft, Avaya, IBM and Cisco Systems) to ensure Savi Office plays nice with the leading enterprise softphone clients. However, I would prefer to see more integration to further bake the functions of the PerSono Suite into the soft client of these communication platforms. For instance, I know the Microsoft Office Communicator can be extended by third-party applications via X M L, and I presume other enterprise softphones can be similarly modified.

As of Version 1.0, the PerSono Suite is not ready for enterprise deployment, as the application is only available as an .EXE executable. Nor is the application centrally configurable via enterprise management tools. Plantronics representatives claim that a centrally deployable executable will be available in the 1.1 timeframe, presumably available sometime later this year.

 Savi Office devices should be available in April.

eWEEK Labs Senior Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at agarcia@eweek.com.

 


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