Leveraging the coolness of a tablet computer, Avaya’s new Personal Video Conferencing Device is a 9″ Google Android tablet with 3 USBs, WiFi and Gb Ethernet. A front facing HD 720p video camera is capable of 30 fps transmission and the touch screen can support 720p 30fps presentation. It comes with a nice pullout u-shaped stand for desktop/tabletop stability, freeing up hands for doodling, note taking or presentation support.
The newly shipping device also sports a new UI called Avaya Flare, shown at left which uses a rolodex metaphor to manage the directory (built from the enterprise directory, email server, LinkedIn or FaceBook account (if enabled) or other social network service). Context sensitive elements like history and contact choices are shown in the rolodex feature at left. Availability to communicate in the various services (video, telephone, IM) are shown adjacent to your photo on the right hand side.
Waving the finger through the rolodex at right spins the wheel and lets you see the names and faces of the people in the directory. You simply tap on them with your finger and drag them to the spotlight in the center. You can choose the media of communication with a tap of the icon below the center spotlight. Incoming calls present new dialog boxes and holding communications are shown in the adjacent spotlights to the left and right of the center stage. Dragging the spotlights from the sides/back to the front space directs your participation. You are speaking/IM/seeing only the session in the center.
Avaya hopes to make the user experience ‘Avaya Flare’ available on other devices and OSes (Dr Alan Baratz did the demos and showed the Flare running on an iPad) and will deliver that over time.
Avaya also announced room-based video conferencing products, but did not speak about them. The company is particularly excited about the tablet. They are not OEMed from PolyCom, a current resale partner of Avaya. From a distance, they looked like LifeSize codecs and cameras, but I couldn’t be sure and can’t find definitive information on the website.
There was no discussion of the firewall-traversal techniques available. Customers with Avaya Aura (the über-SIP registry) can plug it in and it will work, but it is unclear how Avaya expects to handle what I think is a popular cross-network use case involving taking the tablet home and doing a video call from the den for overseas business needs.
The product is shipping today.
The price however, is a VERY big disappointment. MRSP is listed at US$3,750.00, something like 5x higher than the consumer equivalent. Not the best way to disrupt an emerging market. Avaya says this is a 50% discount to comparable devices (what? the Cisco Cius?), but business people are also consumers and know that the iPad is cool and tons cheaper. I bet most executives in this economic climate would spring $500 for an iPad, but not $3750 for this device. Sorry, Avaya, I suspect once you get out of the ivory tower, you’ll see lots of devices of similar capabilities and features for $1000. Your value add is the software and network infrastructure, no?
I think the issue that Avaya has here is that it also sells dozens of IP and digital phone models that will also be somehow enhanced to support Flare and video? Instead of disrupting the IP phone market, this device is meant to stimulate it. How exactly, remains to be seen. Nevertheless, this device is an executive toy and therefore will under-deliver on Avaya’s promise that it will change collaboration. Not at that price point. It won’t.