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Avaya details feature roadmap for Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral

Avaya provided new details this week on the special features it will add to Avaya Cloud Office to make it different from RingCentral's product.

PHOENIX -- When Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral launches on March 31, the product will be identical in features to the cloud-based unified communications suite that Avaya's partner RingCentral sells today.

But over the course of 2020, Avaya plans to add several features to the offering that will make the Avaya-branded product unique. Those extra capabilities include patented features from the vendor's legacy telephony products.

Avaya is also developing software to automate the process of migrating settings and users from its legacy gear to the cloud, although that tool won't be available until later in 2020.

The vendor hopes that enhancing RingCentral's base platform with Avaya features and services will help dissuade customers from buying cloud telephony services from a competitor.

Crucially, Avaya executives also made clear this week at the company's annual user conference that the price of Avaya Cloud Office would generally be on par with RingCentral's platform. "You're not going to see a price war," said Scott Shoults, vice president of Avaya's U.S. cloud sales operations.

Avaya and RingCentral announced in October a partnership that would allow the former to sell a product based on the latter's unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platform. Avaya had been losing customers to competitors like RingCentral because it lacked a competitive UCaaS product.

At the Avaya Engage conference, some businesses said the introduction of Avaya Cloud Office (ACO) had caused them to reconsider abandoning the vendor as they moved to the cloud.

"ACO looks like it might be what I go back with and say, 'Hey, check this out,'" said Bryan Aimetti, an IT admin for Infiltrator Water Technologies, a midsize manufacturer of wastewater treatment equipment. "It seems like a good option for us."

Avaya Cloud Office timeline and feature roadmap

Avaya plans to launch ACO in the United States at the end of March. The product will come to Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia over the summer, before being released in the Netherlands, France and Ireland toward the end of 2020. 

A business will need to have a legal entity registered in one of those countries to purchase the product. However, the service will provide phone service to employees in dozens of additional countries as soon as it launches in the United States.

Avaya has identified around nine Avaya-only features it plans to bring to ACO in 2020 and beyond. The first two items -- bridged appearance, and call park and page -- are targeted for release this summer.

Bridged appearance lets two desk phones maintain separate and shared lines, a feature typically used between assistants and their bosses. With call park and page, when a person places a call on hold, ACO will automatically send a page to another department or user to pick up the call. The feature is particularly useful to retailers.

Towards the end of 2020 or later, the vendor expects to deliver features that include line appearance, call appearance, hotdesking and support for the Avaya Audix voicemail service.

Avaya is also planning integrations between ACO and its on-premises products, although the company has not said when those features will launch. For example, the vendor wants to support extension dialing across cloud and on-premises endpoints. 

What's more, customers should eventually be able to use the IP 500 control box as a gateway between cloud and analog devices. That will ensure users can still place calls if the internet goes down. Also, it would let a hotel, for example, use ACO for back-office workers while keeping analog phones in guest rooms.

Avaya Cloud Office to support Avaya phones, devices

At launch, ACO will work with three models of Avaya's J series desk phones: 139, 169 and 179. RingCentral is also certifying the phones to ship with sales of RingCentral Office, the vendor's flagship UCaaS offering.

Avaya will work with RingCentral to certify B series conference room phones, L series headsets and the CU360 video conferencing system.

Avaya has marketed the ability to switch to the cloud without abandoning investments in Avaya phones as a benefit of ACO relative to other UCaaS offerings. However, most IP Office customers are likely using older devices, given that Avaya launched the J series only one year ago.

Avaya is targeting the new product primarily at small and midsize businesses, especially existing customers using Avaya IP Office. The product can scale to support organizations with tens of thousands of users. Still, the vendor expects many of those customers will prefer its private cloud offerings because of the customizations they provide.

In conjunction with ACO's release, Avaya will end most sales of Powered by IP Office, a version of IP Office hosted in the data center of Avaya partners. Partners will continue to offer the product in a handful of countries where Avaya Cloud Office won't be available for purchase anytime soon, including Mexico, Brazil, Chile and South Africa.

Avaya will also end the sale of a separate cloud-based UC product based on the IP Office and hosted on the Google Cloud Platform. Businesses were able to purchase that product through an online storefront.

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