Avaya buys Traverse to make voice mail easy

Avaya has acquired Traverse Networks, a startup whose software makes voice mail easier to use on the road.

Avaya moved to make voice mail easier to use on the road, acquiring a maker of software that lets users get their office messages without dialing in.

The enterprise communications vendor bought Traverse Networks, a privately held company in Fremont, California, for US$15 million, it announced Thursday. Traverse makes server and client software designed to let enterprise employees easily retrieve and manage their voice mail on a broad range of mobile devices.

The deal adds to Avaya's war chest in a three-way battle with Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks at the top of the enterprise telephony business. Simplifying communication for mobile employees is one of the challenges facing enterprise IT managers. The new features will be integrated into some of the Avaya Unified Communications Editions, a set of software packages the company announced Thursday, said Martyn Lambert, vice president of global products and service marketing at Avaya.

Avaya already offers many such voice-mail features on the Nokia 6600 platform, which runs the Symbian OS, Lambert said. The Traverse acquisition expands that offering to any mobile device with J2ME (Java 2, Mobile Edition) and lets enterprises deploy it on Palm Treo devices and Research in Motion's BlackBerry.

Using Traverse's Visual Voicemail software, a worker on the road can view a list of voice-mail messages and listen to one of them, or select a series of them and play them back in sequence. The list shows the sender, time and length of each message. To check voice mail remotely using Traverse's software, users don't have to dial a number, enter a personal identification number or go through a touch-tone menu, Avaya said. Voice mail can be automatically downloaded to the phone in the background, so the user can check mail even when out of range of the cellular network.

Visual Voicemail's capabilities will be integrated into Avaya's software and become part of an overall system that makes cell phones work much like desk phones, according to Lambert. The software will let employees reach co-workers by dialing extensions, receive calls on both office and cell phones, block certain calls and synchronize the call logs of both phones, among other things.

If all goes as planned, Avaya said, it will start selling systems that use Traverse technology in the second half of next year.

The company's Unified Communications Editions will become available in the first quarter of next year. They start with the Essential Edition, which has advanced IP (Internet Protocol) telephony and messaging as well as basic conferencing capability for a one-time license price of US$325 per user. Standard Edition adds mobile features for an additional US$145. Advanced Edition includes collaboration tools such as whiteboarding and costs an additional US$100, and Professional Edition adds videoconferencing, voice-driven access to messages and other features for another US$125, Lambert said.

Although most of the features of the Unified Communications Editions are already available from Avaya, buying them as packages will save customers about 30 percent, Lambert said. The software packages are based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and other standards and can be used with other vendors' infrastructure, he said.

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