Avaya Atom-Based Tablet to Challenge Cisco Cius

As part of an aggressive video communications effort, Avaya is unveiling a tablet device that will compete with Cisco's Cius tablet in the enterprise market.

Avaya is pushing its way into the video communications realm with a package of products that includes an Android-based touch-screen tablet that will compete with a similar one introduced in July by Cisco Systems.

At a Webcast event in New York Sept. 15, Avaya officials unveiled the Avaya Flare Experience, which includes an 11.6-inch desktop video device designed to make it easier for business users to initiate meetings and conferences.

The Avaya Desktop Video Device, which can run on batteries or be docked at a deskside station, will offer high-definition video and audio, and features a user interface that Avaya officials say makes it easier to contact and communicate with others. It is intended to offer campuswide mobility via SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and WiFi, and offers USB connectivity for such options as a keyboard, 3G/4G access or a thumb drive. Future versions will support remote access over VPN connections and 4G access.

"We're trying to reinvent how we do communications today," Lawrence Byrd, director of UC (unified communications) architecture at Avaya, said in an interview with eWEEK before the Webcast.

Through the Avaya Flare Experience, Avaya is looking to give users easier and quicker access to everything from desktop voice and video to social media, instant messaging and conferencing.

On the screen is a virtual Rolodex directory of contacts. The directory gives a single view of contacts' multiple contact options, such as telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, IM handles, and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Going through the directory, a user can choose a person to talk to and drag and drop his or her contact list into a spotlight in the center of the screen-where the conference takes place-or by clicking on that person's contact data. Invitations are sent via Avaya's UC software.

If more people are needed for the conference, their contact info also is dragged into the circle, they're contacted and they can join, Byrd said.

Because the device is based on the Android operating system, users have access to Android applications. It also makes it easier for developers to write applications for the device, he said.

Like Cisco with its Cius communications tablet, Avaya is looking to take advantage of the interest in the tablet form factor that has been generated by Apple's iPad and other devices. However, unlike those consumer tablets, the Cisco and Avaya tablets are meant primarily for business users.

Avaya's Byrd said the entire Avaya Flare Experience is designed to facilitate collaboration to help businesses drive down the cost of communications while increasing their workers' productivity.

In addition, like Avaya's other communications offerings, the Avaya Flare Experience is based on Avaya's SIP-based Aura 6.0 UC platform, released about a year ago. Since that time, the company has aggressively worked to expand its UC capabilities, including by acquiring Nortel Networks' enterprise business in 2009.

Avaya officials talked about their road map in January, rolled out networking and UC products in April, and unveiled new and enhanced UC and contact center offerings in July, some based on the Nortel acquisition.

The communications tablet, which will be available later in 2010, initially will be the only device through which users can access the Avaya Flare Experience, though the company said it will be available later on other tablets and on PCs, laptops, and smartphones.

The Avaya Desktop Video Device was only a part of what Avaya rolled out in its most recent effort. The company's Collaboration Server puts all the Aura 6.0 core functions onto a single server, enabling easier access for businesses to the Desktop Video Device and Video Conferencing Solutions.

Those Video Conferencing Solutions touch on everything from a single desktop video offering to large, multiscreen conference rooms, according to officials. Avaya also is offering professional and managed services for video conferencing.