Collaboration pundits got their drool opportunity last week with the introduction of Flare, Avaya's new communication tablet. For IT pros, Flare's real impact may have less to do what happens while in the hall and more at the desk. The Flare Experience, as Avaya calls it, is a new kind of interface that will initially be available on the Avaya Desktop Video Device. Think of it as an iPad for business users.
I know Avaya will hate that, but as a tablet, Flare will be naturally compared with the iPad, at least in the consumer market. Probably a better comparison will be Cisco's Cius, announced last June. The Flare and Cius are communications-oriented tables meant to unify all your communication and collaboration onto a portable device. There's a great video explaining Flare here. You can see a video about Cisco Cius here and read Network Computing contributor Lee Badman's blog on the Cius here. The iPad is at your neighbor's home.
"Flare is arguably the first unified app interface that integrates all those other applications into a single UI," Irwin Lazar, vice president of collaboration research at Nemertes, says. "Rather than using the buddy list to launch separate windows, everything occurs within the same window."
Most UC systems begin with the buddy list and escalate from there into individual applications, IM, video conferencing, Web conferencing and so forth. Flare pulls those modalities together, along with social networking, business applications and more, into a single application across personal and professional contacts. You can bring contacts in from many sources including Skype and LDAP into a single experience, which should make the collaboration experience that much easier.
But mid-size enterprises aren't ready to allocate unified communications tablets to their employees, not when those tablets will run $1,500 to $2,000, and not when they're already buying them a laptop and a phone. There's also no way a Flare, with its 11.6" screen, will replace the convenience of a smartphone, besides the fact that it doesn't have 3G or 4G access. So who will Avaya target with Flare?