RealTime IT News

Avaya Ratchets Up The Race For Mobile Workers

Telephony and communications software vendor Avaya  said it has agreed to acquire Traverse, a privately-held maker of enterprise mobility applications, for $15 million in cash.

The acquisition will give Avaya a differentiating feature in the increasingly crowded unified communications (UC) market by allowing corporate workers to run the same applications they use on their desktops on mobile devices like handheld computera and smartphones.

For example, Traverse's software allows users to access their voice mail remotely through a handheld device without having to call a central number.

The applications also enable users to select, listen to and manage messages through a menu-driven interface, send office calls to any phone, block calls from given numbers and access other enterprise call management functions -- all from a smartphone or other Web-enabled handheld.

"The new capabilities will enable us to support simplified employee collaboration and more productive use of communications, wherever people work and across a broader range of devices," said Eileen Rudden, vice president and general manager of the Unified Communications division at Avaya, in a statement.

Traverse was a member of Avaya's developer community and had provided similar functionalities to Avaya for use on desktop computers.

The same applications will be integrated with products in Avaya's mobile UC suite during the second half of next year.

The fact that many enterprise customers are already familiar with these features makes them much more attractive.

Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala noted that most applications work differently on handheld devices than they do on desktop and laptop computers, making them less effective tools.

"If the user experience is different, it makes people less productive because they have to work differently to accommodate the devices," he told internetnews.com.

While it works on integrating the new mobile features from Traverse, Avaya is trying to give customers another reason to select its UC suite by introducing four different packages for enterprise customers today.

These range from a basic set of features for desk-bound knowledge workers to more elaborate functions for more senior executives and mobile workers.

But according to Kerravala, there is very little in terms of functionality that differentiates these packages from competing applications.

This is why the acquisition of Traverse is so important for Avaya, which is competing with heavyweights Microsoft , Nortel  and Cisco  for enterprise dollars in the unified communications space.

These companies realize the boom in handheld computer purchases by corporate workers; Gartner published a report today indicating that worldwide sales of handheld computers increased by almost 32 percent in the third quarter of 2006, compared with the third quarter of last year.

Roughly half of those devices were purchased by enterprises.

"The race is on for the mobile user," said Kerravala, noting that enterprise adoption of mobile devices is growing in the United States, particularly as younger people join the workforce.