Networking technology giant Cisco has launched a domestic video conferencing product called ūmi (pronounced ‘you-me'). It seeks to use the telepresence enterprise technology to offer an unprecedented quality of home video calling.
Telepresence is marketed to businesses as being as good as actually meeting in person, due to the clarity of video and sound. Cisco counts on businesses calculating that even an expensive piece of technology represents a saving on flying execs all over the place.
That logic may well resonate in the enterprise space - where people aren't spending their own money - but the consumer mentality is very different. Cisco wants consumers to fork out not only $599 for the kit, but $24.99 for a subscription to the high-bandwidth network required to do HD video calls.
"Cisco ūmi will bring the unique telepresence experience into living rooms and change the way we are able to be together with family and friends," said Cisco CEO John Chambers, who you can see talking at greater length in the first video below. "We envision a future where technologies like this will play a role in connecting consumers with businesses to enable the delivery of new services, ranging from education, to health care, to financial services - to the home."
It's only going to be available in the States for now, direct from Cisco and via Best Buy. And we're not alone in questioning the viability of trying to sell such a pricy piece of kit to consumers when they can get more basic video calling almost for free via services like Skype.
Tech Trader Daily got some comments from a few Wall Street analysts. Key quotes include: "the odds are small it becomes a success," "many consumers may hesitate at its premium price point," and "we don't understand what we believe to be the hefty pricing of the Umi offering in these tough economic times."
Also, the timing couldn't be worse. Logitech just launched its peripherals for accessing Google TV, and among them is a special webcam for video calls over the telly. In fact Cisco may have inadvertently made Logitech's products look like good value, something that will be welcomed by the Google TV ecosystem, with Apple TV costing a mere $99.