Zeus Kerravala
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Zeus Kerravala | September 15, 2010 |


Avaya Fires a “Flare” and Reveals Its Tablet

Avaya Fires a “Flare” and Reveals Its Tablet Avaya shuns the "tablet" term, calling it a video communications device. It's a tablet. It'll cost about $2,000. But it is part of a new class of devices that break the mold for communications.

Avaya shuns the "tablet" term, calling it a video communications device. It's a tablet. It'll cost about $2,000. But it is part of a new class of devices that break the mold for communications.

After many months of speculation, Avaya finally revealed its version of a corporate tablet to the industry with its fall launch of products. The device has been the source of much rumor and speculation since March VoiceCon and this has been heightened since Cisco launched its "Cius" tablet. Before I get into my thoughts on it, here are the quick specs on Avaya's tablet

* It's an 11.6 inch Android based touch screen device
* The device has an HD camera as well as HD audio. The audio is supported by Harmon Kardon speakers with a base subwoofer
* Support for SIP communications
* WiFI connectivity and a USB port for cellular 3G services. The USB port can also support a keyboard, mouse, etc.
* HDMI connector for large displays
* Fully integrated video -Optional base station and handset for telephony
* Does not rhyme with "Zeus" like the Cisco tablet. But it also doesn’t rhyme with Riggs, Pleasant, Lazar or any other UC analyst!
* Priced to be about $2,000.
* Optimized to enabled the Avaya “Flare” experience (see below)

To be accurate, Flare is the name for the Avaya multimedia productivity experience. The actual name of the device is something like the Avaya Desktop Video Communicator. For such a cool device, I'm not sure Avaya could have found a name that was more lame than that.

The Flare Experience

The first thing most people will want to do is to compare it to the Cisco Cius device. So here are some comparison points:

* The Cius is designed to be docked into an IP phone, removed, taken with the person and then re-docked. Avaya’s is meant to be more of a standalone device.

* I believe the display on the Avaya device is slightly larger than the Cius

* Avaya's device has integrated HD video and audio. I've looked for those details with Cius and it claims to support HD but does not indicate whether it comes standard with it.

* Both are Android based, both have WiFi for connectivity

* Although Cisco gave no details on pricing, the rumored price is to be around $1,000 making Cisco's device about half the price of Avaya's.

It appears overall that the Avaya device is designed to be a bit higher end than Cisco’s, with the built in HD camera and Harmon Kardon speakers. During my briefing I made the observation to Avaya that the Cius was the "Windows" device of corporate tablets and Avaya's was Mac, indicating that it aimed at a higher end user experience and there was agreement from Avaya on this point.

One last point I want to make for accuracy is that Avaya was very clear to me that they are not positioning this device as a tablet but as a video communications device. Avaya, like Cisco, does not want to get into comparisons with other tablets such as the iPad or HP's tablet. In my opinion, it's a tablet--not one geared to the prosumer, but still it looks like one and acts like one.

The positioning of the Flare video communications device is that it’s not meant to replace anything on the desk currently except for a dedicated video device and possibly a conference phone. The worker's PC and IP phone will still be there. The device is meant to be augmentative to what the worker has on the desktop and be used for presenting and viewing information. The laptop or desktop will still be the main device used to create information. Over time, perhaps it may replace the desk phone and workers will have one of these devices as well as a mobile phone plus something like a laptop for creating information.

One might look at this with a skeptical eye and wonder who would buy a $2,000 video communications device (tablet), but that's the wrong way to think about it. The Flare device itself isn’t what the company is buying, but instead the ability to aggregate all of a worker’s multimedia collaboration tools into one experience and display it in a way that’s usable. We live in a world today of information overload and while the device itself doesn't decrease the amount of information it does help organize it and allow for custom experience to help sift through it faster.

With that being said, the device isn’t for everyone. At a price point of $2,000 (or even $1,000 for Cius), it’s a very expensive "augmentative" device and isn't going to initially replace the IP desk phones (which I think are overpriced anyway) in any kind of large scale. However, I do some legitimate use cases:

* High end retail services. When adding a bit of "Flare" to the experience can make a difference like with a high end broker, car dealer, retailer, etc. I could easily see walking into a Nordstrom's and having a sales representative showing an upcoming line of clothing etc.

* Patient care. Doctors could use this device to either communicate with patients from remote offices over video or use it to display important information regarding treatments or other information that needs to be shared

* Collaboration tool for executives. This is far too pricey for every knowledge worker to carry, but for the high end executive that is traveling to meet customers or other executives or board members, the device would make an executive display tool.

Avaya did have other announcements today as well as the Flare device but the "non-tablet" was the centerpiece of the announcement. It's good to see the traditional UC solution providers releasing innovative end points that can change the way people work. To date, the majority of innovation has been to create higher end, brighter, more functional devices that have a phone form factor. Despite the innovation, the majority of what people do with these devices, some costing over $1,000, is make calls. Ooooh, that's exciting!

It's devices like the Flare device and Cius that can actually break the mold on corporate communications and give companies a new type of endpoint to build communications-rich business practices around.


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