This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

Avaya has laid the groundwork to use mobility as its leverage point–but now it needs to be consistent with this and become the UC vendor that pushes the “mobile first” story.

Today Avaya announced the first significant enhancement to its Flare product since the product launched. However, this announcement had nothing to do with the hardware but instead announced the availability of the Flare Communicator software for iPads. Considering Avaya has its own hardware platform, one has to ask, is this a good move for Avaya, or one that spells doom for the “Avaya Desktop Video Device with Flare Experience”? I actually think this is a good thing for the video device and Avaya overall.

Since its release, the Avaya Desktop Video Device has been incorrectly compared to a tablet computer and comments have been made like “Why would anyone pay that much [between $1,000-$2,000] for a tablet!?”. Well the answer is, it’s not a tablet. It’s meant to be a portable desktop device that can take the place of the phone, speakerphone and a display. It’s something to use in the office more than when sitting on a plane.

Releasing the Flare Communicator software for the iPad lowers the barrier to entry to have Avaya customers try the Flare interface without having to shell out the money for the video devices. In theory, once the customer gets hooked on “Flare”, they will upgrade a number of users to the dedicated device. The iPad interface is actually a subset of the features on the dedicated device; one could think of the iPad experience as “Flare light,” and then “full Flare” being the purpose of the video device.

This announcement comes on the heels of the IP Office 8.0 announcement made earlier this month. The 8.0 version of IP Office allows small and mid-sized businesses to run the One-X Mobile client on Android phones today and Apple iPhones in the future. The One-X client allows workers to initiate instant messenger sessions, manage multi-person audio conferencing calls, see presence information, and access the corporate telephony system. Additionally, there is a “geopresence” feature that shows users’ physical location information.

Both the Flare announcement and the IP Office 8.0 release strengthen Avaya’s mobile positioning, and it’s something the company should continue to do. Mobility can create a unique point of differentiation for Avaya. The UC market is currently dominated by the “Big 3” (Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft) and Avaya should continue to lead with mobility as a way of creating its own, unique voice in the industry.

While Cisco does have a strong mobility story, it rarely leads with it. Cisco has the broadest UC portfolio on the market today but its current go-to-market revolves around video, cloud, social media and network integration. Microsoft has always led with a desktop/Windows first strategy and has only recently rolled out its multi operating system mobile strategy. Even with that, Microsoft’s primary focus is on the desktop, as it should be with its dominant desktop market share.

So if Microsoft’s natural customer base is desktop and Cisco is network, Avaya needs a differentiator that’s more than just alternative to the other two guys. The answer is mobile. While “mobility” hasn’t historically been a dedicated enterprise-buying center (like PCs and networks), it’s becoming more common for companies to have VPs of mobility, mobile officers, etc. As mobility continues to grow in importance, Avaya should be able to turn this into a sustainable differentiator.

This also helps Avaya’s bring your own device (BYOD) positioning. 2011 was a big year for BYOD. Going into last year, I would estimate that only about a third of CIOs supported consumer devices in the workplace. Exiting 2011, it seems that almost three-quarters of CIOs were now supporting those very same consumer devices. Over the course of the year I interviewed dozens of IT leaders regarding their consumerization plans and I’ve been shocked by the support consumer technology is getting in companies and verticals that I never thought would actively support consumerization. Make no mistake, consumerization is now the norm, and mobility UC, while not the only ingredient in enabling consumerization, is a very important component of it.

The Flare and IP Office announcements address mobility from a client perspective and complement Avaya’s UC infrastructure products (Aura) and its developer tools (ACE). The combination of these products gives Avaya core components to be very aggressive with its mobility positioning.

Avaya has laid the groundwork for the company to use mobility as its leverage point–but now it needs to be consistent with this and become the UC vendor that pushes the “mobile first” story.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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