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11/16/2006
12:00 AM
Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek
Commentary
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Avaya Refines Its Unified Communications Strategy

At Avaya’s annual analyst conference this week, the company announced a host of news, much of it around unified communications. I discussed some of the more interesting mobile announcements in a previous column. Today, I want to highlight some of the news surrounding Avaya’s unified communications strategy and applications.

The news includes a new client for unified messaging that promises to integrates a variety of collaboration applications (the first version is a Web client, called one-X Portal; a rich client is due in the second half of 2007); simplified pricing and packaging; extensible and rich presence; customer service for enterprise workers; an orchestrated experience; and easier deployment.

Avaya defines its customers as falling into three primary categories: basic communicators (for them, price matters); mainstream (who need enhanced capabilities, including mobility and basic collaboration capabilities); and strategic communicators (who are actively trying to differentiate themselves via their communication tools and strategies). Now, Avaya is offering four software packages to support those needs (today, the company is bundling several software applications and licensing in one, with the SIP softphone acting as the primary application; ultimately, the unified communications client will replace the separate apps and delivered unified administration, too). The list-price discounts range from around 5%-30% from purchasing the applications separately.

•    Essential Editions: The basic package delivers IP telephony with more than 700 features, unified messaging, Find Me Follow Me capabilities, and six-way Meet Me Conferencing.

•    Standard Editions: the mainstream package also includes click-to-communicate capabilities from the softphone, the Web client, Sametime and Communicator; seamless mobility; and the ability to extend and synchronize the office phone to a mobile device.

•    Advanced Editions: the advanced strategic edition throws in up to 700 ports; integrated voice and web conferencing (from Avaya, Adobe, Microsoft and/or IBM); the ability to see who is talking; real-time polling; whiteboarding and sharing; and the ability to record voice and web together.

•    Professional Editions: Finally, for power users, this offering adds multipoint video on demand; on-click voice / video; Web cam support and a high-definition option; eyes-free, hands free speech access to messages and calendar; dial by directory; respond to sender capabilities; and a Personal Assistant.

Meanwhile, on the voice front Avaya will offer integration with Microsoft in February 2007 (it already integrates with Lotus Sametime). Also in 2007, Avaya will be delivering federation with consumer services and other Avaya customers, plus more rich presence information in its tools.

All of this is good news for companies that want to make their communications a strategic and integral part of their business. Avaya’s CEO, Lou D’Ambrosio, said that he sees unified communications as being as transformational as the shift to IP telephony has been—and I have to say, I agree with him. Like that transition, it will take some time—years, not months—for enterprises and IT to completely reengineer their systems. But when they do, the results will literally change the way people work, customers are supported, and business gets done.

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