Can Avaya Flare Knock Off Microsoft Lync on the Desktop?
While Flare will federate and interoperate with Lync, one of the goals that Avaya's Dr. Alan Baratz articulated is that Flare will ultimately displace Lync and other competing collaborative environments in the marketplace.
In dramatic fashion, Avaya announced the Avaya Flare Experience in September, with its first incarnation shown on a custom built Android-based tablet. As many have commented, Flare and the Avaya Desktop Video Device are compelling.
However, there’s much more to Flare than this nice interface on an Android tablet. At the recent Avaya Partner Conference in Las Vegas, Dr. Alan Baratz indicated that Flare is part of a broader strategy to keep Avaya relevant for users. Upon arriving at Avaya two years ago, Dr. Baratz and his team looked at the communications market and concluded that it was highly probable that one of the three communications devices knowledge workers use--the desk phone, the computer, and the mobile phone--was going away. Avaya needed a bold strategy to assure that its communications capabilities had staying power and stickiness so that regardless of which device was eliminated, Avaya technology would remain in front of the user. Given what competitors were doing in the market, particularly Cisco and Microsoft, Avaya had to come up with a solution that would plant a vision of what a collaboration experience could be in the hearts and minds of users.
Enter the Avaya Flare Experience. Although Flare today is on Avaya’s custom tablet, the company has plans to port it to Windows, Mac OS, iOS (Apple's operating system for the iPhone and the iPad), Blackberry, and other Android-based devices. Flare will be available for some of these devices by mid-2011.
Avaya's strategy is to provide a rich collaboration and communications interface that is not only cross platform but which also integrates with common business infrastructure like Active Directory, email solutions such as Exchange and Domino, and eventually business applications such as Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.com. Furthermore, Avaya’s presence engine can federate with Lync and other presence engines so that companies with investments in OCS or Lync can still use these solutions for presence and IM, but provide them as part of the Flare interface on any popular device the user chooses.
To make a collaborative environment work well in the enterprise, it is important that users can have not just similar capabilities, but the same capabilities, across devices and with the same user interface. This minimizes training and user error while providing an opportunity for maximum deployment and use. Since Flare is built on Avaya Aura, Avaya's SIP-based routing and communications platform, Flare's capabilities will work with any PBX (yes, some will need a gateway). The point is that Flare will work with existing PBXs, existing directories, and existing IM/presence engines so that companies can maintain their current infrastructure investments while giving their users the highly integrated collaborative and conferencing experience Flare provides.
While Flare will federate and interoperate with Lync, one of the goals Dr. Baratz articulated is that Flare will ultimately displace Lync and other competing collaborative environments in the marketplace. Furthermore, with Flare’s integration with Outlook and Domino, Avaya intends for Flare to become the interface of choice when working with email since email is so tightly integrated with the rest of Flare's collaborative capabilities.
Can Avaya pull this off?