Umi, which includes an HD camera, a console and a remote, connects to an HD TV and a broadband Internet connection. Effectively a scaled-down, home-based version of Cisco's telepresence technology for enterprises, the networking giant is touting umi as the first step in a broader push into consumer video.
"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," said Cisco CEO John Chambers in a statement.
Umi will be available on Nov. 14 via Cisco and Best Buy's (BBY) Magnolia Home Theater stores. The system will be priced at $599 with a monthly fee of $24.99 for unlimited umi calls, video messaging and video storage.In its statement, Cisco confirmed that it is working with Verizon (VZ) and will extend umi to the telco's FiOS customers early next year. Cisco, however, faces stiff competition in the home video market from Skype and Logitech (LOGI), which just announced the Revue, a set-top box to be used with Google's new Google TV platform. Skype, which has 560 million registered users, poses a big challenge for umi. The software specialist offers free voice and video services over the Internet, and has already taken a swipe at Cisco's telepresence efforts. "These dedicated devices have been around for years and they are sitting in the corner of offices gathering dust," said Jonathan Christensen, a general manager at Skype. "My view is that consumers are used to paying very little." Cisco shares closed up 31 cents, or 1.43%, to $22.30 on Wednesday. --Written by James Rogers in New York. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/jamesjrogers. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.