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Avaya CEO talks competition, debt, innovation

Tim Greene | April 1, 2013
Avaya is pushing a new range of unified communications products, but is finding that managed services are becoming more popular among its customers who would rather turn over complex UC transitions to someone else for a predictable monthly fee, says the company's CEO Kevin Kennedy.

In 2012 Avaya lost some market share in terms of endpoint support to Cisco. What's going on there?

This year we have recently reengaged the mid-market. After we did the Nortel acquisition on both the contact center and the unified communications side our low-end and mid-market offerings became stale, and we were more focused on the high end. It is true that we have lost share in the mid-market. On the other hand the good news is we're on a new product cycle and the product you just asked me about that is so competitive is one of the reasons that we're winning again. You'll continue through 2013 to see us focused on both the contact center side as well as the unified communications side in the mid-market.

The analysis was that what Avaya had lost had gone pretty much directly to Cisco.

There were multiple beneficiaries of it. I don't think they were alone.

Microsoft's Lync is coming up as a less expensive way to get into unified communications. What do you say to customers who are considering it?

We've made it very clear - in effect many of our customers have made it very clear that there are certain things that Lync is ready for and certain things that they are not. Are they a full replacement for a phone system as you think about a phone system in the past? The answer is no.

What are the shortcomings?

There are feature deficits. Are they a full replacement of room-based videoconferencing system today? The answer would be no. Are there many things that you would have to add to integrate with it to make it a full system? The answer is yes. Perhaps one of the most important points is it's highly bandwidth consumptive. Our focus on low-bandwidth, high-def is a focus that irrespective of the top two competitors you may choose you'll find us to be 50% less consumptive of bandwidth and 50% less expensive. Part of that is an architectural issue - one being more a peering architecture vs. a cascading architecture. It's not something you can simply throw a new codex at and change. The real reality is customers and employees will decide what tools they want to use, and it won't be just one tool. IT organizations will decide where they will want Lync to be, and they'll decide where they want bandwidth efficiency in their communications network. I personally believe you will see the coexistence of multiple technologies, not a single technology that is the only answer. That's actually one of the reasons we were very clear today on this notion of an open collaboration platform, a sort of collaboration environment because we believe all of the answers are unlikely to come from any one company. If you want an application that can distribute an SMS to every device that you own vs. just one, well a company may want that and a company may get that from someone else other than Avaya - Microsoft, Cisco - and may want to implement it. That notion of openness is something that we're going to continue to foster. We think the computer industry evolved in that way. That's why WebSphere and WebLogic became what they became in that industry and it's a very different philosophy than you'll see from others.


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