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In strategic shift, Avaya expands portfolio of open SIP phones

Avaya is doubling down on a decision to open its hardware to the software of competing UC vendors with the release of more than a dozen new open SIP phones.

Avaya plans to release roughly 20 additional open SIP phones by early next year, doubling down on a strategic decision to make its hardware compatible with any vendor's software even as it tries to develop its cloud telephony.

Avaya entered the open SIP market in May 2017 with the release of one desk phone, one conference room phone and two models of its Avaya Vantage touchscreen phones.

The embrace of open SIP devices represents a significant shift for the company, which for years had dominated the on-premises PBX market and sold phones that were compatible only with its proprietary software.

Avaya is preparing to unveil 13 additional open SIP phones, bringing the total to 17, and the vendor said its open SIP portfolio would include more than 20 devices by early 2019. The company plans to announce the news next week at a conference hosted by one of its biggest competitors: Cisco, which recently acquired the cloud PBX vendor BroadSoft.

"We want to be platform agnostic," said Steve Brock, Avaya's director of desk phone marketing, in an interview. "We want to go beyond just Avaya software and deliver the Avaya desktop experience to any UC platform."

We want to be platform agnostic. We want to go beyond just Avaya software and deliver the Avaya desktop experience to any UC platform.
Steve Brockdirector of desk phone marketing, Avaya

Among the new open SIP models Avaya plans to announce next week are three desk phones, two conference room phones, four wireless handsets and one additional model of the Avaya Vantage. The vendor will also release three phones designed for use in hotels.

All of the phones are pieces of hardware that Avaya sells in conjunction with its telephony services. The vendor has reprogramed the software running on the devices to make them compatible with the IP-based calling plans of any unified communications provider.

Avaya has spent most of 2018 attempting to transform itself into a cloud-first business, after years of declining on-premises revenues -- and a failure to embrace the cloud quickly enough -- precipitated a bankruptcy filing in early 2017.

However, the industry could see the vendor's embrace of open SIP phones as an acknowledgment that Avaya is likely to remain an insignificant player in the cloud PBX market over the short term, at least.

In the market for cloud telephony, Avaya trails young pure-cloud vendors like RingCentral, 8x8, Vonage and Fuze, as well as legacy vendors like Cisco and Mitel, which added a significant number of cloud PBX seats through acquisitions in 2017 and 2018.

The rise of cloud PBX has spiked demand for open SIP phones. The market for the devices is expected to grow at an average rate of 11.8% annually between 2017 and 2024, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Polycom, which was recently acquired by the headset maker Plantronics, has been a leader in the open SIP market. But Avaya is in a good position to disrupt the market given that it has a strong reputation as a phone manufacturer.

Avaya's strategy is to make desk phones that include many of the same advanced features users have come to expect from their mobile phones. The Avaya Vantage phones come with a color touchscreen and can run Android apps. The device can even translate conversations in real time.

"Avaya's decision to push deeper into the open SIP market with a new army of modern open SIP devices, centered around enhancing the user experience and supporting an interesting array of features and capabilities, is certainly a clever move from the vendor," said Alaa Sayeed, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

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