Avaya, Lenovo to Enable Vo-Fi for Road Warriors

Upcoming ThinkPad models will carry IP softphones that work over a Wi-Fi connection.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Mar 6, 2007
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Voice over IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN (popularly referred to as Wi-Fi) has been making leisurely inroads into the communications world for the past several years. Today, two giants—VoIP infra vendor Avaya and premier notebook computer maker Lenovo—revealed plans to promote the use of mobile computers as VoIP phones.

The joint solution will integrate Avaya's softphone technology into Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops, and make use of the latter's fingerprint-based authentication and Password Manager technologies to bolster call and address-book security.

The move is reminiscent of Intel's fabled Centrino prgram that strove to build Wi-Fi connectivity into the heart of every Intel-based laptop. Extending that idea, owners of Lenovo's Avaya-equipped ThinkPads will now be able to make secure phone calls from any Wi-Fi-connected location.

This should clearly benefit mobile users. Anyone who has tried to get a cell phone connection inside concrete fortresses like most modern convention centers—especially an underground facility like the Moscone Center in San Francisco—knows how difficult this can be.

But with Wi-Fi connectivity—a standard feature offered at conference- and convention centers these days—road warriors will now be able to make calls that would otherwise be difficult or impossible on a cell phone.

Moreover, IP-based calls over the wireless LAN are inherently less costly than cell calls.

"We think it's a great combination of two innovators," Peter Gaucher, executive director of strategic alliances for Lenovo told internetnews.com. "We felt the timing was right, with more ubiquitous connections available, mobile workers were wanting more connectivity and integration and simplicity of the tools they use."

Gaucher said this bundle won't carry a premium over the cost of a ThinkPad and the Avaya softphone sold separately. For large customers, arrangements could be made to include Avaya software in their software image. Major corporate accounts often define an image of what software they want pre-loaded on all of their hardware, and Lenovo will add Avaya's software to that image.

"This is aimed at mid-market and above, largely due to the positioning of Avaya's software," said Gaucher. "They are more of an enterprise provider. Lower-end services are available through Skype and other providers."

Samir Bhavnani, research director with Current Analysis, told internetnews.com that there is definitely a need for this kind of integration.

"The question is how much demand. The ThinkPad is probably the most respected notebook brand out there for corporations. What this will do is give the ThinkPad a selling advantage over some of the systems available from other vendors, in that they are trying to provide a secure environment," he said.

Lenovo expects to begin offering integrated systems by this summer.

This article is adapted from an internetnews.com story by Andy Patrizio.

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