Avaya's new portable isn't a tablet, it's a 'desktop video device'

Avaya had barely announced its new portable video device on Wednesday when just about everybody started calling it the Flare Tablet.

Avaya had barely announced its new portable video device on Wednesday when just about everybody started calling it the Flare Tablet.

Actually, it's officially a "Desktop Video Device," a name that didn't impress Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala. "For such a cool device, I'm not sure Avaya could have found a name that was more lame than that," he said in a blog post .

Avaya isn't terribly concerned by the nomenclature debate, according to a spokeswoman. That's because calling the 11.6-in. touchscreen device the "Flare" puts the focus on the user interface (UI), which is just what Avaya wants. (The UI, by the way, is formally known as the Avaya Flare Experience.)

Why emphasize the UI? To "give the form factor a back seat," the spokeswoman added.

The Avaya Desktop Video Device runs the company's Flare UI .

The Flare interface allows users to swipe through contacts and launch a videoconference call, IM session or audio conference in the center of the screen in just seconds. All of those functions are enabled through Avaya's use of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Avaya Aura 6.0 software, which was announced in July.

The result of having that Aura back-end is a device that uses 50 per cent less bandwidth to handle videoconferencing at a third of the acquisition cost of competing systems from Cisco Tandberg, Polycom and others, Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy said.

Comparisons of the new 3.4-pound Avaya device, which runs Android 2.1 , to the upcoming Cisco Cius tablet and even the Apple iPadare being made already . The biggest distinction might be price, with the Avaya device selling for around $2,000 when it ships in late October or November, and the Cius (with a 7-inch screen) selling for perhaps half as much next year, according to various analysts.

Of the three, the iPad costs the least: $499. And it has a smaller screen at 9.7 in. than the Avaya offering.

"Avaya...does not want to get into comparisons with other tablets such as the iPad or HP's tablet," Kerravala said. "In my opionion, [Avaya's] is a tablet -- not one geared to the prosumer, but still it looks like one and acts like one.... Avaya was very clear...that they are not positioning this device as a tablet, but as a video communications device."

"It's not intended to be compared to a multimedia-e-reader-iPad device," Avaya spokeswoman Deb Kline said in an interview.

If it's not iPad-like, how it would function in an office environment -- where workers already have desk phones and desktop computers -- isn't completely clear. Kerravala doesn't think it would replace anything on a worker's desk, serving mainly as a dedicated video device and possibly as a conference phone. "The laptop or desktop will still be the main device used to create information," Kerravala said.

By contrast, some companies are already taking to the cheaper iPad as a laptop replacement , although they don't expect it to last as long as most laptops.

Kline agreed that the Avaya device is "not a PC replacement," although she said when Avaya builds in support for VPNs, employees may want to take them home and use them there -- perhaps along with a keyboard connected via Bluetooth.

For now, the usage model for the Avaya device is fairly clearly the "desktop," as the name says. Adding to the confusion is how Avaya intends to extend the Flare user experience to all kinds of devices in 2011, including smartphones and the iPad.

Alan Baratz, president of global communications at Avaya, demonstrated the Avaya device yesterday and even showed how the Flare UI could be extended to other devices. He held up what appeared to an iPad on stage and showed the Flare interface running on it.

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