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Optical/IP

Avaya Styles Hybrid Phones

Enterprise PBX player Avaya Inc. is pushing its new one-X Deskphones as a breakthrough in corporate VOIP handsets, offering HiFi audio, a new user interface, and a "sleek, international design."

The company is offering four new phones in the series, two of which will available next month with the others following in early 2007. The first releases are a desktop for "everyday tasks" and one for users that need mobility.

The feature set includes support for Bluetooth and WiFi and the ability to automatically forward calls from a deskphone to a user's mobile phone.

Avaya has included an integrated Wireless Markup Language (WML) interface on the phones so that they can be expanded with new Avaya and third-party applications. The company says the phones' reworked interfaces also allow them to be used as timeclocks to record the hours an employee works and to hold corporate surveys among workers.

Saied Seghatoleslami, VP of product management, claims that the phones could open the door to new customers for Avaya. "Something like a quarter of the purchase decision is decided by the phone," he says.

Analysts, however, wonder how much the design of a VOIP phone matters to enterprise customers.

"Not very much if you are selling to North American enterprises," says analyst Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates. "It may matter some to the SMB marketplace, where style may be more of an issue. But frankly, Cisco and others have been doing a pretty good job of selling some pretty ugly VOIP phones into the enterprise."

"Not much... especially not in the enterprise market where I suspect Avaya is primarily focused," agrees Charles Golvin of Forrester Research Inc. .

Gold notes, however, that the European and Asian markets may care more about aesthetics, and with the entry of the cellphone makers into the market, style could become more of an issue.

"The real competition to Avaya and other VOIP players long-term is mobile phones, where styling clearly is important, and where Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, etc., spend a great deal of time developing very stylish phones to meet end-user demands," the analyst opines.

Avaya is already working with Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) on dualmode VOIP systems. (See Avaya Calls on Nokia Again.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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