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It's the Software, Stupid

When I was pre-briefed on the news that Avaya announced today, the biggest question I had was, "OK, but can users get the software on their PCs?" The Flare user interface is really cool--easily the most impressive UC app I've seen to date--and it does all the things it’s supposed to, including interfacing with enterprise communications and social-media apps. Why not offer the "experience" to the largest user base from the start?

Or, why not offer it on the iPad, as well as (or instead of) the Avaya Desktop Video Device? (Tablet or not--and, let's face it, that's exactly what it is--it sure could use a better name.) Think about it: If Avaya offered its Aura customers a free Flare client for the iPad, it could seed the enterprise market on that (already popular, likely to stay that way) device.

I realize support for such devices, and others, is coming. But clearly, right now Avaya is using the (very awesome) interface to sell a piece of hardware. In the enterprise, that just isn’t going to fly. With a price tag of $2000, the Avaya Desktop Video Device (really? that's the best they could come up with?) costs more than most companies spend on employee PCs.

Are there use cases for it? Sure. Traveling executives who might otherwise get a traditional executive desktop videoconferencing system will like this better--it does more, and it’s mobile (OK… one more stab at the name: why put "desktop" in it when the whole point--or, in any case, the big point--is the ability to use it on the go?). Healthcare providers looking to deliver remote services to far-flung or even home-based patients might put one on each ward (although I don't see doctors carrying them around in the pockets of their white coats). But any vendor that thinks it can sell a $2,000 machine when consumers can buy an iPad for about 70 percent less is thinking wishfully indeed.

What Avaya can sell is a lot of software licenses. Because, have I mentioned, Flare is a really, really nice UC client? But to do that, it needs to, well, sell it as software. And, aside from the fact that Avaya clearly isn't doing that, it poses a challenge I haven't heard anyone mention in the blogosphere yet: Flare is sexier and more useful than Aura, Avaya's flagship UC application.

Avaya had some other announcements today, including a line of low-cost, low-bandwidth HD videoconferencing systems. These are based on technology from LifeSize, which sells...a line of low-cost, low-bandwidth HD videoconferencing systems. It's unclear why a customer would buy videoconferencing equipment from Avaya rather than a more seasoned (read: traditional) VC vendor, unless Avaya's pricing is significantly lower, or its integration with other UC tools is significantly better, or both. But run a nifty interface like Flare on it and, well, the device isn’t the point. The software is.