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Unified Messaging/Unified Communications vendor AVST has introduced mobile clients for the Apple iOS and Android smartphone platforms called AVST Mobile along with the new CallXpress Release 8.2. AVST has long been admired in the Unified Messaging (UM) space and even garnered an honorable mention in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications in 2011. Even though it didn’t meet the requirements to be considered as a full UC solution, Gartner felt compelled to write “In the area of unified messaging (UM), Applied Voice & Speech Technologies (AVST) offers a best-of-breed UM solution.”
Most IP PBX and UC suppliers have introduced smartphone clients with little success, however, AVST is coming at this from a different angle and with a fairly compelling offering. First off, it does a lot of the same things as other mobile UC clients like Cisco Jabber (formerly Unified Mobile Communicator), Avaya one-X, or Siemens OpenScape Mobile. Those would include single number reach (i.e. calls to the user’s desk phone are automatically forwarded to the mobile), single voicemail (as you might expect from a UM vendor), and mobile number protection; for number protection, all outbound mobile calls are forwarded through CallXpress and the called party sees the CallXpress pilot number rather than the mobile number in the caller ID. The client also manages contacts and provides directory access.
AVST recognizes the growing BYOD movement, and the product supports a dual persona where business calls are made and received through the AVST Mobile client while personal calls will be made/received natively on the device. Through the mobile client users get a visual call screening function that allows them to see who’s calling and either answer, acknowledge (i.e. record and return a brief message the user will hear like, “In a meeting, I’ll call you in ten”), transfer the call to a different device or person, or accept and record the call.
The visual voicemail capability allows the user to not only see who’s called and listen to the messages in any order, but to do so without placing a mobile call and using cellular plan minutes; industry estimates are that roughly 10% of mobile usage is calls to voicemail. The messages are converted to WAV files and forwarded to the device over the data channel. There is a short delay as a few seconds of the incoming message is buffered so that it can play without pause once it starts.
The app also allows a user to set their availability, change their voicemail greeting or direct their calls to a preferred device. According to AVST CTO Tom Minifie, the company purposely didn’t try to cram every conceivable function onto the mobile version, but rather identified the key functions that a mobile user would require and provide them in a mobile-appropriate fashion.
The mobile app provides a new way for users to engage with CallXpress. AVST also offers a personal assistant function that is a fully voice-activated hands-free, eyes-free capability that allows the user to perform almost any function the system can provide using voice commands. While not quite as slick as the Siri capability built into Apple’s iOS 5, the AVST personal assistant will allow a user to listen to, erase, or forward voicemails, place calls, and change system settings. The hands-free, eyes-free capability allows field sales and service people to handle their routine tasks while driving between calls.
AVST CEO Hardy Myers stresses CallXpress’ interoperability. While AVST provides the UC solutions for partners Aastra and NEC, they also inter-operate with Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, Alcatel-Lucent, and ShoreTel. Their most important alliance is with Microsoft’s Lync, where they see the CallXpress potentially configured to act as an intelligent gateway for customers who use Lync for IM and presence, but use a traditional IP PBX for their voice calls. CallXpress can route incoming calls to a user’s Lync client, and can connect outbound Lync calls to the PSTN.
I have not been a fan of mobile UC clients for business calls because they change the basic process of making calls; users invariably prefer the native interface on the mobile device. AVST’s use model is different however. A user would open the app periodically to manage an incoming call or place an outgoing call. At the conclusion of the call, the user is automatically engaged with the Personal Assistant which allows the user to do everything they needed to do with voice commands in that single session.
AVST had pioneered a much simpler voice recognition capability in its Personal Assistant that has been in the market for 10+ years, but this is their first time they have put out a visual mobile client in its own right. AVST Mobile expands the personal assistant features on the iPhone and Android and will be available for free through the iTunes store and the Android market, but the user will need CallXpress 8.2 or higher platform as well as Personal Assistant and Unified Messaging licenses to make it work with full functionality.
So AVST has taken the idea of the mobile UC client in a new direction, but it remains to be seen if their concept will be more successful than what we’ve seen from the IP PBX and other UC vendors. However, mobile users live by voicemail (and email and text), and dealing with voicemails is essentially a “batch process.” Where most mobile apps are designed on the assumption of multiple quick interactions throughout the day, voicemails are handled in bunches. If that proves to be the case (and AVST Mobile does the job better), this could be the mobile UC app that breaks the mold.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
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