With Cisco and Avaya both releasing tablets to work with their unified communications systems I've been thinking recently about the practicality of the approach. I can see how it might make sense, but I've yet to be convinced that tablets in general are ready for the UC big time.

I've no concerns about using a tablet to make voice or video calls. At least not once you're over the embarrassment factor of talking into something the size and weight of a large hardback. Software, on the other hand is, something else.

The advantage of the Cisco and Avaya tablets is that they've been designed to work with their respective UC platforms. That means custom client software to pull together communications of all types from simple voice calls and instant messaging to full-blown video conferencing, email and desktop collaboration.

Replace those tablets with an iPad or bog standard Android device and it's nowhere near as neat or complete a solution.

On the plus side tablet communication apps are available, headed by softphones to make VoIP calls over a WiFi or 3G wireless connection. Such as Bria from CounterPath, famous for the popular X-Lite softphone.

Billed as a carrier grade SIP client, Bria can be used to make both VoIP and video calls as well as check presence, send messages and transfer files. Moreover as well as Windows and Linux it's now also available as an Android, iPhone and iPad app.

Unlike the Cisco/Avaya clients, however, Bria hasn't been written for a particular UC platform, and it lacks the integration with email and other applications they're able to deliver. It's a good start, but that's all and a lot more will be required if the iPad and other tablets are to succeed as viable UC client devices.

This article is written by Alan Stevens and sponsored by Avaya. The opinions reflected in this piece are solely those of Alan Stevens and may not reflect those of Avaya management