One headset for two phone systems? That's Savi
The scoop: Savi Office, by Plantronics, about $380.
What it is: This device combines the traditional desktop phone wireless headset with a VoIP headset connected to a PC. Before the Savi, users would need one headset for answering their desktop phone, and a separate one if they wanted to use something such as Skype or Google Talk for PC VoIP calls. The system comes with options for different headset styles (over-the-head snap-on band, a convertible version or the over-the-ear style -- coming soon -- that is similar to the company's Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset). PC audio is also supported with the device, so you can listen to music on your PC without reaching for a third pair of headphones. Electronic hook switch cables are available that support systems from Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Polycom and Siemens.
Why it's cool: Employees who use multiple communications platforms -- from the desktop phone to the myriad and growing number of unified communications options -- usually have a bunch of different headset/microphone devices attached to their desk or PC. This helps consolidate your approach, by offering one headset that can answer the calls of a desktop phone, and then the employee can push a button on the Savi base station and switch to a VoIP application. The device supports Plantronics' optional HL-10 Handset Lifter (a must, if you ask me, if only for the cool way the handset lifts by pushing a button on your headset). The wireless range on the headset lets you go up to 350 feet away from the base station, so you can get up and move around your office (or home office) to grab extra materials when you're on a call. The base station acts as a recharger, and Plantronics says that the headset offers as many as hours of battery life (on the over-the-ear version; the convertible version offers up to nine hours). The noise-canceling microphone was also a nice touch (not that I'm in a noisy office, but some users might be and would appreciate this).
Another cool feature -- the modular design of the base station lets you detach the headset base and move it to another base station, pairing it with the second base station. If users move around to different offices, this can be a quick and easy way for them to bring their headset with them without having to disconnect the entire base station/charging station.
Some caveats: The system I tested doesn't support the third prong in the communications trifecta -- mobile phones via Bluetooth. Plantronics does have a Savi Office version for Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 that connects PC voice users (preferably OCS) with a Bluetooth headset, but not a traditional desktop phone. Perhaps Plantronics will create a system that combines all three connections -- desktop phone, PC VoIP applications and a Bluetooth mobile phone -- in the future.
In addition, the PC audio portion of the system was average -- in testing I could launch an audio application and hear the music through the single speaker on the headset, but I prefer listening to music through a pair of stereo headphones or an external speaker system (usually via my iPhone/iPod). In addition, when I wanted to hear the audio through my PC's speakers again (for example, watching a YouTube video), I had to reset my browser. The PC audio support is a nice feature, but in practice I didn't like it that much and would have preferred the Bluetooth connectivity instead.