New Avaya video offerings carry channel expansion opportunity

Avaya Inc. put rival Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) squarely in its sights earlier this month with the launch of Avaya Flare , a video, messaging and collaboration user experience, along with a number of related products and endpoints. Among them is an Android-based touchscreen tablet to rival the Cisco Cius .

The unit is mobile with a battery that supports HD video for three hours and can be tethered to a desk via a docking station. Equipped with Avaya unified communications software with a new interface called Flare User Experience, the 11.6-inch tablet can be used to pull together ad hoc meetings, including hi-def conferences.

The Flare UI and new endpoints leverage Avaya Aura, the vendor’s SIP-based unified communications backend. But Avaya also launched Avaya Collaboration Server. It’s a box that virtualizes the Avaya offerings needed to support Flare, and can be plugged into an existing backend, Avaya or otherwise, and offer Flare’s video, messaging and collaboration capabilities.

“From a channel perspective it affords our channel partners an opportunity to go back to their customers and offer this innovative video experience,” said Amir Hameed, Avaya Canada’s director of national solutions specialists. “They don’t need to have an Avaya back point or be existing Aura customers.”

For existing customers already on Aura, Hameed said partners can immediately deploy SIP endpoints to leverage the capabilities of the Flare UI. And the Collaboration Server lets those customers that aren’t yet ready to move to Aura, or have even deployed another vendor, leverage Flare. Either way, it’s an opportunity for partner to go back into their customer base and have a conversation about video and collaboration.

“Collaboration server is the ongoing evolution of the Avaya Aura story. It’s plug-and-play; it’s not ripping anything out,” said Hameed. “As the industry moved to standards-based SIP, all competitor’s products can be plugged into a compatible core.”

Because Flare is based on Android, applications can be written to it quickly or acquired from Android Market. Separately, customers can also use Avaya’s ACE application development toolkit to customize communications apps on the Avaya UC platform that runs on the device.

Avaya says it’s working on some of these, including an app to record conferences, real-time speech-to-text so participants can mute a conference but follow the conversation scrolling on the screen, and a listen-and-alert application that listens for mention of a participants name so they can jump back into a conference they have muted.Cisco’s Cius tablet is also based on Android and supports its unified communications and telepresence platforms. Announced in June, Cius is scheduled to ship next year. Flare is scheduled to ship in the middle of the fourth quarter this year, Avaya says, and the street price is expected to be about US$2,000. Cisco hasn’t said yet what Cius costs.

While Apple’s iPad doesn’t support Flare User Experience, Avaya has catered to Apple products in the past, notably its one-X mobile client for iPhones, and support for iPads is a possibility, said Avaya.

The Flare User Experience software will be adapted over time to fit other devices such as iPhones and other smartphones, said Avaya. Some features of the Flare User Experience are available for certain touchscreen phones. Those features include conferencing, a display of who’s in the conference and who’s on mute, a mute flasher to let participants know if they’re on mute and an instant-message sidebar.

Flare includes an HD video camera, Harman Kardon speakers, speaker phone, HD display touchscreen, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It has an Ethernet jack for wired network connectivity and two USB ports that could be used, among other things, for an external keyboard or to support 3G or 4G cards to connect to broadband wireless services.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN .

— With files from Tim Greene, Network World (US)

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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