Get Ready to Video Chat From Your Couch

Cisco umi 2

You might soon find yourself chatting with friends and family from your couch, if some hardware companies have their way. With new products from Cisco and Logitech announced just hours apart from each other, the market for consumer video chat is heating up, as multiple providers are looking to be the de facto provider of video communications in the living room.

Logitech today announced a new video chat solution to be launched alongside its Google TV offering. For $149, the Logitech video camera is designed to plug into the Logitech Revue set-top box, and will enable Google TV users to video chat with each other. The Revue product will also come with the Logitech Vid application built right in, allowing those with the set-top box and camera to chat with users of its PC webcams.

Cisco announced its Umi consumer telepresence solution earlier today, which for $599 — and $24.99 a month — will provide consumers with an IP-based video conferencing solution. While Cisco’s offering is much more expensive, it’s betting that consumers who value high-quality interactions will pay for a high-value product. I’m skeptical, but it’s possible that Cisco will be able to use carrier agreements to help bolster interest from consumers.

Of course, Cisco and Logitech aren’t the only companies looking to capture the nascent video chat market. These announcements follow news from Skype that it’s working with CE manufacturers to have its video chat capabilities embedded in their TVs and other living room devices. It’s already available on Samsung TVs, and could be added to other CE devices soon.

The big problem with all these offerings so far is the lack of interoperability. While each player is looking to capture its share of the market, it’s only fragmenting users’ ability to connect with one another. Without a common interface between them, the opportunity for consumer video chat to hit the mainstream will be limited.

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