Avaya Makes Enterprise Communications Fun
Don't laugh; the "Flare experience" really is different from what you've seen before for Unified Communications.
The most surprising thing in today's Avaya announcement event wasn't that the CEO of Avaya stood up and told the audience, "It's time to make enterprise communications fun."
The most surprising thing was that Avaya has pretty much done just that.
It's not about the tablet, it's about Flare, the user interface. Having demo'ed it at the announcement event here in New York, I have to say that it's extremely intuitive, simple, and, yeah, kinda fun, at least for a product devoted to business.
The Flare interface uses the metaphor of a "spotlight" to highlight who you're communicating with, and a series of icon buttons below let you choose the mode--voice, IM, video, etc. You drag and drop from a contact list on the right hand side of the screen, where you have tabs that integrate all your contacts--from Outlook (it doesn't support Notes integration yet), Facebook, wherever.
The spotlights (plural) are displayed as a carousel, so you can drag a couple of people out into a sub-conference that swivels to a new spotlight, and those you left in the original call swivel to the back, greyed out. It's a very effective visual cue, at least to me.
But that's the key here: Avaya really nailed the interface for an enterprise worker who collaborates in multiple modes; it's easily the most elegant presentation of Unified Communications I've seen. It's hard to visualize; the Avaya PR folks promise that they'll have demo videos up on YouTube shortly.
Update: Here's a video from Avaya's YouTube channel:
Some other random points relative to the release:
* Avaya's really pushing hard on this as a video device, I think partly because of the high price tag of $2,000; one exec told me you can use the newly-released device as a replacement for a bunch of devices like conference phones and room videoconferencing (since you can dock it and project the video onto a screen). If a company did that, it might justify the $2K, but I'm doubtful that many will.
On the other hand, Joel Hackney, Avaya's Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, and President, Field Operations, told me here that he estimates 30-35% of the customers he's talked to have talked about the new tablet device as a replacement for "traditional" UC--i.e., the voice/email/IM integration with less or no emphasis on video.
* Avaya's pitch for the device as a video competitor is built on three points:
--The 10X productivity they say it enables
--50% less bandwidth use--600-700 kbps versus 1.5 Mbps or more for other video endpoints.
--1/3 the acquisition cost of competing HD video products from Polycom or Tandberg
* What's the big differentiator versus the Cisco Cius? When I asked Joel Hackney that question, he echoed what was said on stage earlier: "It's orderable now." It's also twice the expected list price, I said, and Hackney replied that the Avaya device is more functional.
* The Avaya execs here say the the "Flare experience" i.e., the software, will be ported to other Android-supporting tablets as well as the iPad, though the initial release doesn't support this. The plan is to have versions of Flare for all form-factor devices--PCs, smartphones, IP deskphones (the Avaya 96X1 series).