I have worked at some of the biggest tech brands on the planet and their offices have had everything. But one resource all of them always ran out on a tuesday afternoon was meeting rooms. Yes, doesn’t matter which office or what’s the cause but you’re never finding meeting room in those buildings which apparently have hundreds of them. Most are occupied, some are booked perenially, some are blocked by teams, some big rooms are booked by single people while dozens are cramming a 6-seater and dreadful broken machines/network rooms are hell. It’s even worse in smaller offices of Indian SMEs and the shared workspace ecosystems.

But now Avaya – one of the leaders in Contact Centre and Unified Communications field – seems to have brought a solution for us. This week in New Delhi’s lavish Oberoi Hotel, they launched video collaboration all-in-one unit CU360. The 360 in its name stands for the 360-degree or whole round experience the product provides.

avaya CU360 launched in Delhi.

Vishal Agrawal, Avaya’s Managing Director – India and SAARC, at the product launch

A portable huddle room

The device, running on android 7.0, combines the functions of standard video conferencing equipment with the portability of a laptop. The device will let you create a huddle room (a small 5-seater meeting room) wherever u can find a screen with a usb input and Wifi. There are some built-in collaboration tools like a whiteboard and presentation sharing capabilities but the biggest catch is the android-based platform.

Android-Power! 

One thing that seperates CU360 from its competitors is its ability to load and use android apps and services based on these apps. That means you can use it for making calls or collaborating over Hangouts, Slack and Messenger too. The interface looked much like the android phones we are all used too (I felt they looked more tablet-like). While there was a customised app-store for you to download all your necessary android apps.

When asked whether that will not hamper Avaya’s own video conferencing services, the team replied that they want this device to become a one-stop solution for its users and they don’t feel threathened at all.

Well more power to you Team Avaya, but I feel that Avaya’s idea here to get this device even in places where other services have already made a home. At least the device and a three-month free subscription of their Avaya Equinox Meetings Online (AEMO) service bundled with gives them a chance to show off their capabilities in new boardrooms (or as they like it huddle-rooms.)

Where can the CU360 be useful

The answer to this is anywhere with a display. The unit has a 4k sensor and supports 4K displays too. It can currently stream in HD but the team said that limitation may be removed soon.  If you pair it with a touch-screen display, it can take touch-input too. It has a robust remote that not just helps you control the fuctions and navigate but also doubles down as a full-blown handheld keyboard. The unit is small enought to fit in your office bag too.

Avaya CU 360 video collaboration unit photo by deepumadhavan

Avaya CU 360 video collaboration unit (photo by deepumadhavan for SMEStreet)

On the connectivity front, there is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RJ45 and USB connectivity (C-type and 3.0) for the device. It lets you record meetings and store it on device (30 GB memory), on network drives or on the cloud.

The demo, by one of the Avaya teammembers who was very sure-footed with the tech, showed us a very easy to set-up-and-use device (btw, Avaya claim that you can get into a meeting 5 minutes after you recieve the product!). But they were surely using the touch-input on the demo devices and that is not common in Indian offices yet. I wanted to see more of tradition inputs and maybe a normal remote demo.

On the video call and collaborations front, it was a robust experience and we were not surprised, considering Avaya’s experience in the field.

So overall the device is a powerpacked communications solution but the big question is whether Indian businesses will warm upto this almost 1000$ (don’t you hate it when companies give $ prices at Indian events? This means close to Rs 69,000) device.

Yes, it does solve the meeting room scarcity issues that plague not just small companies but big corporations and shared work spaces too. It can turn even your hotel suite into a meeting room with a wide-angled  camera coverage. Or what about your workstation or bay? Sure, it sounds promising but in a price concious Indian SME scene, I don’t think the product will find an instant liking. There are so many great solutions available for conferencing and collaboration and they might be cheaper than the 10p/minute plan AEMO offers with device after trial period is over. Add this to the overall device cost, won’t an SME just stick to his laptop screen?

We put these questions in front of our resident SME Guru Faiz Askari, in this exclusive piece on SMEStreet where he not just answers them but also suggests some progressive-yet-necessary steps for Avaya’s marketing team to ensure its success.

Our verdict: The CU360 is a great product and offers a great oppurtunity and promise for Indian SMEs who constantly collaborate and interact with others online. The pricepoint though is a tough-sell in today’s market.