Cisco Umi: An HD Telepresence System for SMBs?

umi

Yesterday, Cisco 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, 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 umi.cisco.com, and beginning Oct. 18 from bestbuy.com. 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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