ShoreTel Unveils Docking Station for iPhones, iPads

The combination of the ShoreTel Dock and ShoreTel Mobility app gives users all the benefits of their devices and traditional desk phones.

Apple's iPhone and iPad have helped fuel the growing mobile workforce and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends that have permeated the enterprise in the past few years. ShoreTel is now offering a docking station for the devices designed to make using them.

ShoreTel on May 6 unveiled the first docking station for the Apple iOS devices that pair them with the vendor's ShoreTel Mobility software, creating a unified communications (UC) environment where consumers and business people can transform their Apple devices into desk phones that have all the features of traditional desk phones.

Through the ShoreTel Dock and the ShoreTel Mobility app, users have all the features available to them from their devices, including contact lists. At the same time, they also have access to a wide range of ShoreTel UC features, from instant messaging and presence to conferencing and voice. Once docked into the station, the device can be displayed in landscape or portrait mode, and the dock keeps the device powered up.

At the same time, they get all the features that they're used to with a traditional desk phone—a dial tone, keypad dialing, high call quality, voicemail retrieval and a handset. The ShoreTel Dock also supports Bluetooth, and automatically launches the ShoreTel Mobility app when the device is docked.

"This is very natural," Pejman Roshan, vice president of product management at ShoreTel, told eWEEK. "It makes a lot of sense."

The flood of smartphones and tablets onto the market, initially aimed at consumers, is transforming business communications as users increasingly leverage their devices at work. Apple's iOS-based devices are particularly popular; according to a report in March by Citrix Systems, iOS was the top choice, with 58 percent of devices used in enterprises being Apple devices.

And the BYOD trend will only pick up steam. Gartner analysts said in a report this month that by 2017, 38 percent of businesses will stop giving out company-issued devices to employees and forcing them to use their own smartphones and tablets.

Employees' preference for their own devices makes sense, Roshan said, given the capabilities and portability of the devices. However, there are challenges, in particular, call quality, ergonomics and battery life, he said.

Smartphones are good for quick calls, but become uncomfortable when used for long periods of time. In addition, call quality is not always great and interruptions can happen, and battery life can become an issue. "You have to be cautious about using your mobile device when you're on a call for any length of time," Roshan said.

Given the popularity of the devices, "it makes sense to augment the experience," he said, noting that the ShoreTel Dock will sell for $349 when it hits the market in the third quarter.

The ShoreTel Dock, which is a natural result of the company's 2010 acquisition of Agito Networks, will be available for on-premises and cloud environments.

ShoreTel came out with a docking station for Apple devices first, not only because of their popularity in the enterprise—primarily the iPad—but also because most of the devices share the same connectors, Roshan said. Building docks for devices running Google's Android operating system will take longer, given the wide number of disparate smartphones and tablets from a range of different vendors and with different hardware configurations.

He said docks for Android devices could be 12 to 18 months away.

ShoreTel is showing off its ShoreTel Dock this week at the 2013 Interop show in Las Vegas.