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Digium’s New IP Phones Aimed at Midmarket

February 10, 2012
by Marie Lingblom

Digium’s introduction of its own family of high-definition IP phones places a competitive bet on potential mid-market opportunities on the heels of reported enterprise expansions of IP telephony and replacement of earlier deployments.

The new IP phones include Digium’s open source communications software, Asterisk, and its unified communications system, Switchvox. The goal, Digium told Channelnomics, is not to be the cheapest phone, but rather provide phone systems that offer the best value for small and mid-sized businesses.

The three models are competitively priced from $129 to $279 to go head-to-head the likes of Cisco Systems and Avaya. And for partners who sell Digium’s Switchvox solution, say execs, the TCO improves right away because Digium phones don’t require Phone Feature licenses or a separate provisioning server to work with the Switchvox system.

Digium phones include an app engine with a JavaScript API so programmers can create their own custom apps that can interface directly with core phone features. Mark Spencer, founder and chief technology officer for Digium, calls the app engine a “game-changing feature” limited only by the imagination of developers.

The ability to monetize the open source Asterisk project by providing phones is also significant, say company execs, who estimate there are more than a million phones sold each year to attach to systems based on Asterisk. That adds to other ways to monetize Asterisk, such as licensing, gateway cards and support contracts.

The desired result? Growth in the community.

Digium’s shift from a model utilizing third-party IP phones creates plenty of speculation about its partnerships with, for instance, Polycom.  Polycom IP phones are commonly deployed with telephony systems based on Asterisk.

At least in Polycom’s case, however, Digium recently renewed a partnership in which developers continue to create applications for joint solutions that include management features such as provisioning and other vertical-market-focused features.

In nearly the same breath, Digium is also touting the fact that partners are being offered the opportunity to replace third-party IP phones with Digium phones on all Asterisk-based systems.

Execs are also emphasizing that “nobody else knows Asterisk like Digium.” Every phone purchase, they say, “helps support the ongoing development of Asterisk, and Digium phones will keep up with enhancements to Asterisk better than any other vendor.”

Also included in its e-mail response to Channelnomics’ questions about channel opportunities, Digium noted its partner model is value-based, not volume based. That allows for higher margins than other IP phone vendors, say execs.

“These phones are absolutely the easiest to install, integrate, provision and use with both Asterisk and Switchvox,” said Danny Windham, president and CEO of Digium.

The look of the new phones isn’t exactly new. But the move certainly provides a new, more complete solution for Digium partners and their customers — a unique market position underscored by the benefits and flexibility of an open-source system.

General availability of the new phones is set for April 2012.

Digium’s New IP Phones Aimed at Midmarket

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