Cisco Umi: An HD Telepresence System for SMBs?


Yesterday, Cisco (s csco) launched its consumer telepresence offering, Umi, which can be connected to an existing HDTV to provide high-definition video calling, with up to 1080p resolution, in the home. As Ryan pointed out over on NewTeeVee, at $599 for the hardware, plus an additional $24.95 per month for unlimited calls, it seems a little pricey for its target consumer market, especially given that there are much cheaper web conferencing products from the likes of Skype and Citrix (CTXS) that can also provide HD video chat.

It should be noted that Umi is a fairly capable offering, though. It includes the kind of high-end features that have previously only been found in expensive enterprise  systems (like those from Tandberg and Polycom (s plcm), for example): full HD video, a video camera with motorized aiming controls and optical zoom, and a dedicated service to handle the calls, which should mean guaranteed call quality. It will be able to provide the kind of immersive “feel like you’re in the same room” high quality call experience that you just can’t get with cheaper web conferencing products.

While it remains to be seen whether there will be many consumers who are ready to shell out for a super-high-quality telepresence system like Umi in their homes, it wouldn’t surprise me to find Umi actually winding up in the hands of SMBs (and perhaps even some freelance web workers) who’ve always entertained the thought of having a telepresence system but haven’t been able to justify the tens of thousands of dollars they generally cost; in comparison with enterprise systems, Umi sounds cheap. It seems strange that Cisco hasn’t pitched this product at the SMB market, but perhaps the company didn’t want to undercut its existing (and lucrative) enterprise offerings.

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

What do you think? Would a high def telepresence system like Umi help you as a web worker? Do you think it will end up in the SMB market, rather than home?

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I think it’s targeted to consumers because doing viral marketing that targets consumers is considered easier. and then the consumer can sell the idea/product to his business.

Quite a few technologies has achieved business adoption this way(pc’s , social networks for example).

Michael Ricci

These Video Teleconferencing products are exciting! I recently added VU Telepresence to my line card. I would be smart if all these video conferencing units we capable of talking to each other…


@Tom: I doubt that umi will interconnect with Skype, as Skype uses its own proprietary protocols. Interconnecting with Google Talk could be possible, though.

Itzhak W.

For umi to work for SMB it must interop with other common devices such as tablets and cellular phones – as the hypothetical freelance web worker has to communicate with other people that don’t necessarily share the same passion for Telepresence, and with an actual Relepresence room from Cisco.
The way I see it, not Umi nor Revue will have any success bringing Home Telepresence before enabling communications with everyday devices (iPhone/Facetime?).

Simon Mackie

I’m not sure it has to have interop to be successful, it depends on what you want to use it for. A telepresence system is not the same use case as a general video chat device. I agree, though, that being able to connect with SKype/GTalk/Facetime/etc would be very useful.

Tom Moberg

I think you are right on track – for the non-profit and small business organizations I work with this seems like a very nice setup for a conference room. I am assuming it will inter-connect with other systems like Google-Talk and Skype.

Simon Mackie

Tom, as far as I know it does not interconnect with Skype or GTalk (although I’m sure that enterprising folks would find a way to get it to)

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