Blog Post

At $599, Cisco’s Umi Telepresence Is a Non-Starter

Cisco (s CSCO) rolled out its consumer telepresence offering this morning, unveiled under the Umi brand. The offering, which can be used with existing HDTVs, is available for pre-order today, but a price tag of $599 will probably be a little out of reach for Umi’s target market.

There are four pieces to the Cisco Umi solution: a video camera that sits on top of your HDTV, a set-top box that connects to the user’s broadband connection, a remote control for navigating the interface and making calls, and a cloud service that routes calls. The offering can deliver up to 1080p video, and connects via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

The Umi solution is everything you might expect from a Cisco telepresence offering; the video is beautiful, of course, but the offering is pricey. The hardware costs $599, and the solution comes with an additional $24.99 monthly charge for unlimited calls.

Cisco is going into field trials with Verizon (s VZ) and plans to bring Umi to FiOS customers in early 2011. However, users can use Umi on any broadband network; to do 1080p video, it needs just a 3.5Mbps connection.

Since there will be a fairly limited number of consumers that have access to Umi at launch, Cisco has teamed up with Google (s goog) to enable users to connect the Umi telepresence service with GTalk video chat users. Since GTalk is fairly pervasive at this point, the partnership will give early adopters at least a few friends to chat with.

The product is available for pre-order beginning today at, and beginning Oct. 18 from It will become generally available on Nov. 14 from Cisco’s Umi website, Best Buy and Magnolia Home Theater stores and the Best Buy (s bby) website.

Related research from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

25 Responses to “At $599, Cisco’s Umi Telepresence Is a Non-Starter”

  1. A little pricy for a home consumer… Concept is nice, I would consider even at this price but only if I wouldnt have to pay a monthly service fee. I think I will stick with my HD webcam for now.

  2. Wow…beam me up Scottie. “Space; the final fontier…..” Why do we watch Sci-fi…we’re living it. Yeah I know, this isn’t exactly leaps and bounds in technological breakthroughs in the past ten years…but when you’re as old as I am, eeverything new they unveil is remarkable. I remember what it was like to BE the tv remote.

  3. $600 plus $25 a month!

    And all this money for a point-to-point. Definitely not for home users.

    So I buy one for myself and pay $600 plus another $280 for the annual service, then I get my parents one and shell out the same amount. Thats $1,560 for a video call!! what is cisco thinking? I can do a free call from my living room with a Sony Playstation 3 on both ends with a camera.

  4. Umi does not work with any current standards-based video conference/telepresence system (including Cisco/Tandberg/Polycom/Lifesize), and is limited to point-to-point only. Most home users will not have the bandwidth required to use it (3.5Mbps for 1080p, 1.5Mbps 720p, that’s for each direction up and down). Nice that they are offering a 30-day money-back guarantee.

  5. stephen

    oh goody, now I can do video conferencing just like the gang on “24” – of course, I have to be sure to use the brand name whenever I talk about it. Wouldn’t want it to become a commodity, now would we?

  6. Adam Henson

    Seems a lot like the lifesize express for 1/10th the price. Really not sure why they’re targeting consumers with this – it could do well in a SMB environment.

  7. This is a SMB offering in disguise. My business has already decided to buy two of these, it looks fairly similar to what Cisco has been selling for 30k-100k up until now. The motorized camera and dedicated appliance are killer features … having a “conference room” skype login in company is awkward and a hassle.

  8. I think from a consumer standpoint this is a bit of a non starter, especially since it competes with FREE. I think logitech and others are going to introduce similar/lower priced offerings and that is going to make it difficult for Cisco to play in this market. My 2c

    • The cost for the equipment will be much lower through service providers as part of combined equipment/service offering. Assuming Cisco will promote this heavily with TV advertising, along with partners like Verizon and BestBuy, I think it will have success. One inital question: will this be interoperable with other telepresence and video systems? Interop would help drive home office/teleworker apps, which can help consumers justify (and even expense) the cost.

  9. What would you say is umi’s target market? I’d say upper-income, tech-early adopters, at least the first year.

    I wouldn’t say it’s out of reach for that market – the real question is whether they can market educate enough for this demo to see a reason to buy it rather than lower-quality, best-effort video like that of Skype.

    Lastly – think of this price against the cost of plane tickets for geographically separated families. That’s part of what they’re competing against with a product like this.