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Panasonic joins the SMB convergence fray

Panasonic joins the SMB convergence fray

Vendor launches a new communications product group focused on voice and data solutions for consumer and SMB markets

Looking to carve out its own piece of the convergence pie, Panasonic has launched a new Communications Product Group (CPG) focused on voice and data solutions for the consumer and SMB markets.

The division is the first launched by Panasonic worldwide. It combines state-based account managers, marketing and sales staff with technical and support and brings together the vendor's consumer and business-oriented communications product lines. All sales are undertaken by its dealer channels.

"Previously, cordless phones and the like were in the consumer electronics group, while PBX sat in the business group, and we couldn't leverage both sides with partners," CPG director, Brett McInnes, said. "This streamlines the decision making and our processes so we can offer improved support for channel partners."

He said Panasonic had doubled its channel investment budget and tripled the amount of partner training available over the last three months to help dealers skill up in the new convergent technologies. It was also running a series of sales incentive programs around new and forthcoming product lines.

"Our dealer training is focused on quality of service and return on investment as well as what can be provided with remote management and ongoing maintenance," he said.

Forthcoming product releases include Panasonic's first consumer networking product, the high-definition Power Line Communications Adapter, as well as the Globarange cordless phone series and IP-based cameras. They will be available in Q4.

At the business end, Panasonic will launch a pure IP-based PBX system, KX-TDE, for SMBs with 20-150 extensions. The hardware is supported by its new software system, Phone Assistant, which includes applications such as hot desking, video conferencing, Microsoft Outlook and mobile integration, text messaging and remote management. It also works alongside Panasonic's ACD Report Server for call centre functionality and can be integrated with its IP camera range, CPG product manager, Jerry Ng, said.

TDE systems were ideal for Panasonic's target verticals: education, professional services firms, hospitality and health, he said.

While admitting there were plenty of networking competitors, such as Netgear and Netcomm, jostling for position in the digital home and small business office, McInnes was confident Panasonic's heritage in SMB-oriented PBX equipment, along with its expanding and integrated IP-based product set, would give it a leg-up in the market.


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