Avaya announces new desktop IP phones

Avaya on Thursday announced two new IP phones for desktop use in offices, schools and hospitals that feature high-fidelity sound and access to intelligent applications based on a new Wireless Markup Language (WML) interface.

The Avaya one-X Deskphone Edition models also include a USB port for connections to keyboards and a variety of devices including handheld computers, Avaya officials said. The new 9620 and 9630 models will ship July 10, with other models to follow in January.

The phones are aimed at boosting employee productivity and reflect Avaya's awareness of how often workers need a desktop phone that interacts with all kinds of wireless devices, desktop PCs and applications, said Lou D'Ambrosio, senior vice president and president, Global Sales and Marketing for Avaya. "Voice is still the most intimate and powerful form of communication," he said.

Russell Stewart, IS technical support manager at LifeNet, a nonprofit human organ donation agency in Virginia Beach, Va., is conducting live tests of eight of the phones inside LifeNet's help desk. The help desk supports nearly 500 workers, and so far, Stewart and the help desk workers have noticed a marked improvement in sound quality and ease of use.

They are testing the new 9620 and 9630 models, and Stewart said the USB port has already allowed him to use a small USB drive to transfer directory information to the new phones. "It's sort of like sneaker net from the floppy world and makes things a little easier," he said.

In general, Avaya has shown an ability to create technologies that adapt to future needs, Stewart said. He said he is eager to hear more about Avaya's plans to release a cell phone with Motorola Inc. that can take a call from a desk phone and allow a user to move from a WiFi connection to a cellular network using the same phone number.

"Voice communication is paramount to us compared to data," he said. "To take care of organ transfers, minutes matter to us and we deal in one world that's both life and death."

Three industry analysts said the sound enhancements to the newest models are important, as are Avaya's plans to allow the phones' plastic face-plates to be manufactured in different colors. Frank Dzubeck, an analyst at Communication Network Architects in Washington, said many large companies may want to buy different colors to match dA©cor or their corporate colors. He said he knows of no Avaya competitor offering that capability so far.

Allan Sulkin, an analyst at TEQConsult Group said Avaya appears to have provided new features in the phones while keeping costs competitive with Cisco Systems, Alcatel, Nortel Networks and Siemens, among others. Avaya lists the new 9630 at US$525, while the 9620 is priced at US$395. Pricing was not announced on two other models, the 9650 and 9610, which will ship in January.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said he was impressed by the sound quality and the usability of the new interface. "The functionality of desk phones is fast approaching where cell phones were in the 90s," he said. All the desktop phone manufacturers "have a long way to go, but the new Avaya phones are a great start."

The WML interface in the phones allows them to be expanded with new Avaya and third-party applications, and Avaya named three companies in its DeveloperConnection program who have created applications for them. Those applications include the ability to turn a phone at a hospital patient's bedside into an appliance providing data for the patient and staff to use. Another application will present a video image from a Web-based security camera to the high-resolution screen on the phone.

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