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Consumerization of IT: Avaya Addresses UC Mobility

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Avaya bringing better unified communications to your pocket through new mobility app for its IP Office 8.0 UC platform.

According to IDC’s “Consumerization of IT in SMBs Worldwide, August 2011” report, 69% of medium-sized firms provide smartphones to employees. This is besides the legions of enterprises that already allow workers to use their personal mobile devices for business purposes. Naturally, this is a minefield for CIOs and IT managers who must keep corporate data safe while giving employees the freedom to balance their lives and be productive.

At the same time, businesses want the benefits of unified communications (UC) both in the office and on the road. In recent articles, we’ve detailed many of UC’s benefits for businesses of all sizes, but there’s no denying that larger organizations tend to have an easier time deploying UC from end to end and top to bottom. Smaller firms must often make do with existing equipment and upgrade to UC as they can.

Combine these two trends and you see the reasoning behind Avaya’s new mobility app for its IP Office 8.0 UC platform. IP Office spans both desktop and mobile workers, integrating various analog, digital and IP communications systems into a cohesive UC whole. The platform is particularly targeted at small/medium-sized businesses.

All other things being equal, such firms would most likely prefer to let workers use their own mobile devices rather than supply them from an (already modest) IT budget. Avaya’s new mobile app, called one-X Mobile Preferred for IP Office, may make this decision easier.

With most consumer-class smartphones, the usual applications provide email, instant messaging, voice, and other common communication elements, but they’re not unified into a convenient whole that can be centrally managed. With the new one-X Mobile, you get instant messaging, but this is combined with integrated presence, able to convey to the group a given user’s status based in part on their Outlook calendar. If a worker is unavailable, others can “follow” that person and automatically receive notification of when that person becomes available again.

Users have visual voicemail capabilities, not only letting them see message details but listen to calls as they’re being left. Geopresence capability lets workers broadcast their whereabouts to team members, and one person on his or her phone can instigate and manage a multi-party conference call, including with the ability to mute or drop any given participant.

Avaya released one-X Mobile for Android this month and will follow with an iPhone version at some point this quarter.

Predictably, Avaya launched its new app with a prominent customer, Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, ready and waiting as a poster child for how organizations can use Avaya IP Office with their mobile workforce to “cut communications costs in half.” For sure, saving money is a big deal, but there’s another, broader point to be made.

If we reflect back on Cisco’s Cius tablet and the semi-closed ecosystem it represents (a review of this device is coming soon to Tom’s IT Pro), that’s one paradigm. Without question, it’s easier—and arguably more secure)—to manage a closed ecosystem, but it’s also more expensive. On the other hand, we have an open environment—the Bring Your Own Device world in which up-front costs fall but back-end management headaches can blossom. The question is whether the benefits of an open ecosystem outweigh the headaches for SMBs.

Part of the significance of Avaya’s one-X Mobile is that it brings in the business-oriented functionality to consumer devices that SMBs need in order to operate like larger enterprises. It shifts the balance of that “benefit vs. headache” question.

With more apps such as one-X Mobile entering the market, closed ecosystem providers are going to feel more pressure to justify their value, and that means more fierce competition in the market. At a time when 55% of medium-sized firms and 30% of small businesses (according to IDC) are looking to adopt UC within the next year, the more competition the better.

William Van Winkle William Van Winkle William Van Winkle has been a full-time tech writer and author since 1998. He specializes in a wide range of coverage areas, including unified communications, virtualization, Cloud Computing, storage solutions and more. William lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with his wife and 2.4 kids, and—when not scrambling to meet article deadlines—he enjoys reading, travel, and writing fiction.