Remember the rotary phone? Depending on your age, you might be asking ‘what’s that?’. They don’t make rotary phones any more, in fact, they haven’t in years. Is your office desk phone headed in that direction?
Sure, you use your phone while you’re at work. But in this decade, an employees’ cell phones are now competent alternatives to the one-desk-with-a-hard-phone office culture that has dominated American work life for previous decades.
Why are people using their desk phone less? Reasons vary depending on the company. The obvious answer is of course cost savings. Businesses save a significant amount of money by switching over to VoIP services and softphones, and gain in utility and application integration. Softphones, while chipping away at the supremacy of the desk phone, have not completely extinguished the latter’s ubiquity.
But money aside, the social element of a desk phone may be at play. Forbes.com lamented that “the death of the desk phone is rooted in the daily voicemail clutter as well as the fear of accidentally talking to one of these [spam] callers.”
There is no question that desk phone usage has declined, and will almost certainly continue to do so. But to say that desk phones are “dead” is perhaps an extreme, and at the very least, imprecise way of labeling this downward trend. The metaphor of death has become so central to the way the viability of a technology is judged, and this black-and-white terminology often obscures the fact that the product is still being used by a sizeable portion of the population. A more accurate term, perhaps, would be the “slow but steady decline” of the desktop phone. Not a summary invalidation of its viability, but a tacit acknowledgement that it may eventually be supplanted by other technologies.