Samsung is not a name that quickly comes to mind in telephony. But the South Korean giant has been selling business communications systems since 1996 when it acquired a U.S. company.
But with the recent release of the third model in its OfficeServ 7000-series, the 7100, aimed at organizations with up to 25 seats, the company says it is starting to push itself more aggressively to Canadian companies.
It’s latest move here is to sign a second distributor, the Technology Assurance Group, which has partners in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“We’ve had incredible response from the market,” said Deb Goswami, director of marketing for Samsung Business Communications Systems, a division of Samsung Telecommunications America.
Demand for the system, which comes bundled with six phones and voice mail for a list price of US$1,800, has outstripped supply since it was introduced in May, he said.
However, Zeus Kerravala, a telecom industry analyst at the Yankee Group, is skeptical Samsung will make much headway among small businesses. “Demand for Samsung has really dropped off over the last few years,” he said in an interview.
The small business sector in North America, already crowded with names like Toshiba, NEC, Ericsson and Samsung, have since the introduction of IP telelphony has been joined by ShoreTel, Avaya and InterTel (now owned by Mitel).
“Samsung’s always made decent products,” he said, “but other companies have done a better job at creating demand for themselves.” While they may be doing more marketing, “it’s 2007, and over half the companies we talk to already have their IP telephony deployments under way. They missed out on a huge market opportunity,” said Kerravala.
“I guess it’s never to late to start, but in my opinion what they offer isn’t differentiated enough to make up for the fact they’re five or six years to late to start their push.” They’ll do well among current customers, he said, but new customer acquisition will be hard.
The OfficeServ line was until 2005 filled by the series 100 and 500, IP-enabled servers with no data capabilities. The 7000 series not only supports analogue, digital and IP protocols, it also includes data routers, switches, a firewall, intrusion detection, a VPN and support for WiFi-based telephones.
The 7200, which can handle 120 IP phones, is aimed at organizations with between 25 and 100 users, while the 7400, which has 1,344 physical and 768 virtual ports, is targeted at groups from between 100 and 400 users. Up to 99 servers can be networked together for larger groups.
While acknowledging the market is competitive, Goswami said there are few vendors making systems that are as all inclusive as the 7000 series. Only systems with CTI softphone applications, such as auto attendant, are sold with software licences, he said. Otherwise, the systems include a long line of features that other vendors charge extra for, he said.
On the data side, the series is made of integrated modular cards and run over with a single operating system to make it easier for organizations to manage.
Upcoming improvements to the line include unified messaging, although Goswami couldn’t say when it will be added.
Samsung also makes the DS-5000 line of digital handsets and the IPTS5100 line of VoIP handsets. Both lines offer an embedded navigation key, like the rocker dials on cellular phones, which Goswami said help users roam through menus.
The ITP5112L features a 3.5-inch colour display, which makes it easier for viewing the mini personal information manager included on the phone. Developers can create applets for that model.
While Samsung has demonstrated prototype desktop phones capable of videoconferencing, Goswami couldn’t say when they will be brought to market.