Avaya Flare vs. Cisco Cius

By Chris Talbot

Going up against the Cisco Cius tablet, Avaya is entering the tablet PC space with a device designed to make unified communications and collaboration via voice, video and text easier than before. The Avaya Flare Experience is an Android-based tablet device with an 11.6-inch HD multi-touch LCD screen.

With a built-in 5MP camera, Wi-Fi connectivity, a 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet port, dual microphones, stereo speakers, USB ports and a three-hour battery, the Flare Experience is one of the few tablet PCs designed specifically for the enterprise market, which means it will come into direct competition with Cisco Systems' Cius business tablet PC and, to a lesser extent, the Dell Streak and Apple iPad (both of which were designed for consumers but have found some traction in the enterprise market).

According to Avaya, the Flare Experience was developed to simplify video communications in the enterprise.

"To be fully productive, employees need to simply connect via easy-to-use, fully integrated video, voice and text capabilities," said Kevin Kennedy, president and CEO of Avaya, in a statement. "This is the heart of Avaya's people-centric approach to collaboration and the means to faster, better results with less effort and a lower total cost of ownership. We're delivering a more potent collaboration experience at one-third the cost using substantially less bandwidth over other solutions on the market today."

The Avaya Flare Experience provides users with drag-and-drop capabilities for voice and video calling, as well as the ability to download and install business and productivity applications, including ones developed for the Android platform.

"It is an important development," said Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT. "There's been a ... huge degree of interest around tablet computing that's largely been dominated by Apple and the iPad since the early part of this year. With products like the Avaya Flare and the Dell Streak and the Cisco Cius, we're starting to see not just new products coming to market but also different sorts of philosophies of what tablet computing can be and can actually accomplish."

Unlike Dell and Apple, both Avaya and Cisco designed their tablets around the needs of the enterprise and business communicators, which makes both the Flare Experience and the Cius part of a new form factor for unified communications solutions, King said. They're fundamentally different types of products from the more consumer offerings.

Avaya's new tablet, which leverages the Avaya Aura 6.0 technologies announced in July, will compete directly with Cisco's entry into the world of tablet computing, but the two offer very different form factors and capabilities. With an 11.6-inch screen, Flare is much bigger than the Cius, which sports a seven-inch screen. Cisco also offers a much longer battery life – eight hours for the Cius compared to three hours for the Flare Experience. However, Cisco's longer battery life and more compact design may not be much of an advantage over Avaya.

"There is a fairly significant difference in battery life between the two. The Cius claims eight hours. The Flare claims three hours. But frankly, the Flare is not the sort of device that somebody's going to want to take with them on the road and try to get hours and hours and hours of usage out of it," King said. "It's really meant to be used on the desktop as a way to initiate and participate in conference calls, VoIP calling, web-based video conferences; and if you need to unplug it and take it into a presentation, you can do that."

One point of discussion around tablet PCs is whether it's necessary for them to have long battery life features, he said. Although King noted that it's nice to have a longer battery life, especially for tablets being positioned as consumer devices, it's not necessary when used mostly in an office environment or when the device can be charged using an adapter kit while on the road.

"In a business setting, this kind of device is one that's going to be turned on and turned off as necessary," King said. That's a big contrast compared to the iPad's design intent, which expects people to use it for hours on end. He explained that business tablets aren't meant to be used in that way. Instead, a business tablet is meant to complement a desktop or laptop computer.

In addition to the announcement of the Flare Experience, Avaya also announced two other new products that in the collaboration and videoconferencing space.

Avaya Video Conferencing Solutions is a new product category with units ranging in size from those suitable for desktop videoconferencing to multi-screen conference room deployments. These include the Avaya one-X Communicator Desktop Video Soft Client, the Avaya 1010 and 1020 video systems for workgroups and small conference rooms, the Avaya 1030, 1040 and 1050 for medium to large conference rooms, and the Avaya Videoconferencing Manager 6.0, which will provide management tools like conference scheduling, configuration and monitoring.

The Avaya Collaboration Server provides Aura 6.0 functions on a single server so customers can use the Flare Experience, Desktop Video Device and Avaya Video Conferencing Solutions.

This article was originally published on 2010-09-17