Avaya Office 8.1 Release - Cloud for SMBs

Today, Avaya announced a major update with Office 8.1, with a particular emphasis on giving SMBs more options and flexibility. I don't think anybody is really driving the IP communications bus these days, but in 2012 all the major vendors seem to be the same path with UC, cloud, mobility/tablets and BYOD. Clearly, the days of owning customers with proprietary PBX systems are over, and these vendors have pretty much now shifted entirely to offering software and services. We all know how businesses benefit by reducing Capex and funding UC out of Opex, and that puts a lot of pressure on vendors to be more price-competitive and innovative in terms of meeting today's moving target of end user needs.

Along those lines, I participated in Avaya's Office 8.1 brief last week, and now the word is out. There's a lot of news here, and beyond today's press release, I'm not going to get into the details - you're just a click or two away from finding that on the news sites. On the whole, I think Avaya has done a great job, both for customers and channels. Of course with such a huge installed base - 7.5 million users globally - they have a lot to defend, and that's what 8.1 is designed to do. For SMBs, they've added scalability, giving IP Office a big swath from 10 users, right up to 1,000, at which point the mid-market overlaps with Aura. That's fine, at least they have all the bases covered with a complete UC solution.

As with many other vendors, there's a cloud version - Avaya Live - really an entry-level offering to complement the premise-based IP Office offering. Keeping pace with the market, IP Office serves multiple endpoints - PC, mobile and IP phones, along with an iPad-compatible Flare experience. They outlined a nice roadmap into 2013, including video interop/support for their Radvision acquisition, Lync integration, virtualization support, enhanced contact center capabilities and fuller integration of Flare with other environments.

The only thing missing for me was social media, which I don't think got mentioned at all. Considering all the recent buzz with Cisco rebranding Quad and Microsoft acquiring Yammer, I thought there would be something, if only just on the 2013 roadmap. Nada.

I also found it interesting that desk phones were almost entirely absent from the discussion about 8.1. Again, I don't think they were cited at all during the briefing, and there's no mention of them in today's press release. Just shows you how much the market has shifted, that even Avaya (don't forget Nortel) doesn't talk about phones any more. My main concern is with 8.1 focused heavily on SMBs, this customer set is still pretty telecom-centric. I raised this point during the Q&A, and it was taken in stride, so hopefully they've read the tea leaves well enough to make 8.1 attractive to both channel partners and SMBs. Time will tell, but the bigger picture shows a strong update that should keep Avaya at the front end of the UC market unless social media disrupts everything, but I don't see that happening any time soon.