Avaya Flare for iPad, Windows coming in 2012

Seven months ago Avaya Inc. said it was porting the client for its Android-based Flare multimedia conferencing software to the hot-selling Apple’s iPad tablet. Since then it’s only been available on iOS in beta.

But the general release is coming soon, according to Avaya Canada president Ross Pellizzari. During an interview at a customer show in Toronto on Tuesday. Pellizzari (pictured) said Flare for iPad and Windows will be released next year.

Pricing has yet to be determined.

For Frank Mirecki, director of sales and technology at BrantTel Networks of Burlington, Ont., an Avaya integrator, the iPad release won’t come soon enough.

“People are interested in when it comes to the consumer base platforms like the iPads and other consumer tablets,” he said in an interview at the show. “We have significant customers lined up to get their hands on it when it’s available.”

Flare gives users access in a single interface to desktop video conferencing, social media, presence and instant messaging on a mobile device. But it has to be integrated with Avaya’s Aura SIP-based unified communications system. Avaya wants Aura customers to turn to Flare rather than competing platforms such as Microsoft Lync, which is why the company is eager to get it on popular devices.

One of Flare’s advantages, says Avaya, is that it can leverage the SIP capabilities of Aura. For example, members of a group can come together for a video conference and split into teams for separate discussions in the middle of the call, with a host bouncing back between them.

Flare was first released for the Avaya Desktop Video Device (ADVD) tablet, which industry analysts complain is too expensive for many customers. That’s why many are looking forward to the iPad version.

 “We have [Canadian] customers that have it in their labs,” Amir Hameed, director of technology operations for Canada and Latin America, said in an interview. But, he added, most are first deploying Aura and upgrading their infrastructure for High Definition video before putting it into production.

He acknowledged that customers say the ADVD is expensive, which is why they are looking forward to Flare for the less pricy iPad. But, he said, ADVD is intended to compete with high-end video conferencing solutions.

In interviews and in presentations, Avaya officials disclosed other new products and added capabilities coming in the next 12 months.

Jean Turgeon, Avaya’s vice-president and global general manager for data solutions, said a new line of stackable Ethernet campus switches are on the way, as well as technology that will extend the company’s data centre virtualization solution to the campus.Aura’s Contact Center suite will be enhanced with the addition of a number of features, said Chris McGugan, vice-president of emerging products and technologies.

–Performance Center will include a number of business intelligence components to improve analysis of the performance of help centre agents as well as automatic help tools;

–Virtual Agents will offer first level automated chat and email responses to queries. They can also be used for help centre agent training, McGugan said;

–Enabling agents to offer help by video. For example, a customer can hold a product he’s having trouble with up to a desktop video camera to show the agent what the problem is. Just like a “click to chat” option on a Web support page, Aura will be able to offer Flash-based “click to video” for PCs and mobile devices.

–Giving the option of offering the Flare desktop for support agents, who can leverage its communications capabilities to find organization experts to help solve a customer problem.

–Finally, there will be a hosted version of Contact Centre for service service providers. A hosted version will appeal to organizations with 200 or less support agents, McGugan said.

It will also appeal to organizations whose need for support staff increases only at certain times of the year – say, in December or around Valentine’s Day.

Things are changing at Avaya. Taken private in 2007 by private equity firms, it recently announced that it will go public at an unannounced date. The company told show attendees that it has had seven consecutive profitable quarters.

The company is healthy enough that it bought six companies in the past two years, including Nortel Networks’ enterprise division. Avaya has a substantial stake here including two research and development centres in Ontario.

The Canadian division is also cruising. Pellizzari told attendees – which included solution provider partners as well as users – it has three times the customers it had two years ago.

“Our revenue is growing, customer sat (satisfaction) is growing,” he said in an interview.

According industry analysts, Avaya has no problem capitalizing on its reputation for voice products. According to Dell’Oro Group, for example, in the second quarter of this year Avaya held a 27 per cent share of the unified communications market worldwide, compared to 21 per cent for Cisco Systems Inc.

But even after the Nortel acquisition, said Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research, “who thinks of Avaya for data.” That can be a problem when a competitor like Cisco can offer data centre and unified communications solutions.

“I don’t think many people did think of Avaya when they thought of data,” Pellizzari said, “but once we did the Nortel acquisition and people realized we are the third biggest player in the data space people are starting to realize we are a force to be reckoned with.”