As long-time readers know, I seem to have something of a thing for earbud phones. When I work from my home office, I'm mostly on conference calls, and holding a phone is tiring. Using VoIP on the computer with a headset was tying me down; bluetooth didn't have much range, and occasionally I need to wander off for a snack or to take the dog out. Thus, I had settled last year on using a traditional cordless handset with speakerphone, using DECT 6.0 with quite a nice range, but tied to my analog phone line.

At Lotusphere 2011, I had a chance to check out the Plantronics Savi Office. It was love at first sight. A DECT wireless headset that I could connect both to VoIP and analog simultaneously? [swoon]

Image:My Savi (Plantronics) Office

I've been using the Savi Office for a few months. I switched my IBM setup over to use Sametime Unified Telephony, and now I use the lightweight, comfortable earbud for almost all my calls. The Savi Office will also connect up to an analog phone line, but it oddly needs a bit of a kludge to do so. You need a traditional handset analog phone, and a funny looking device which lifts that phone off hook when Savi Office wants to use the line. I haven't bothered with that part, mainly as I don't have an old phone lying around. Something to explore.

Savi Office has several different models. Plantronics sent me a version that only does VoIP and analog; there appears to also be a model that will connect over bluetooth to your mobile phone as well. That seems pretty cool, but IBM Sametime will switch calls between VoIP and my mobile anyway, so between the two I have that use somewhat covered. The Savi would allow me to keep using the same earbud with the mobile, but only when the mobile is within range of the base. So not sure it would help me that much to have the tri-mode anyway.

Plantronics doesn't make Savi Office software for the Mac, some of the call management features are unavailable to me. IBM Sametime provides many of the same capabilities, so no matter, but it would be nice to have a full Mac adaptation. I think I've also missed some of the documentation as a result; in writing this blog entry, I've discovered FAQs and other useful tips on the Plantronics website.

The call quality is excellent, and the talk time on the earbud runs several hours. I wish there was a useful way to mute a call from the earbud. Apparently, newer models have a mute button on the earbud, but my version requires you to hold the volume button until a triple beep sounds. Problem is, that triple beep will sound every subsequent 15 seconds...annoying. But I can mute from Sametime or Skype if I am at the desktop; it's only when I am walking around that I'd like a dedicated mute button.

The Savi Office has made me a full-time fan of SUT, and what a great implementation. I now get IM chats that start with "I see you are on a call..." rather than constantly having to switch my status over to "in a meeting". I can call others with a single click, and receive incoming calls right to the earbud. If I need to jump in the car, I can transfer a call in less than two seconds to my mobile device. And my hands are free while I'm on calls, so I can type, take notes, or hastily assemble a sandwich. I'm also using the call routing rules to help ensure that key staff and colleagues can get through to me or find the right way to connect.

I'm sure I look a little nutty to my family, UPS guy, and neighbors since I seem to have this thing wired into my head all day, but it has really made my home office environment so much more productive. Thank you to Plantronics for letting me evaluate and share what I've learned about my awesome Savi Office, and to my colleagues on the Sametime team for building a great solution for unified communications.

Link: IBM.com: Sametime Unified Telephony >
Link: Plantronics Savi Office >

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