Telecom Timeout

Oct 8 2010   8:15AM GMT

Video chat using Cisco’s Umi? Let me clean the house first

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

I can say with complete assurance that I will be not; standing in line at Best Buy on November 14 to buy Umi, Cisco’s latest consumer offering designed to bring telepresence to the home in a big way. In case you want to be the first person on your block to videoconference from the comfort of your living room HDTV, I won’t stand between you and your Umi.

Cisco’s home videoconferencing solution comes with a $599 hardware price tag and a $24.99 monthly subscription fee. (What happened to the $200 consumer-adoption break point?) The money isn’t even the main deal-breaker for me, although it is totally one of the deal breakers. Someone would have to have a powerful video-chat motivator to pay the price right now.

Of course I realize I’m probably not in Cisco’s target demographic. Plenty of people already look to Skype or Google to video chat from their computers. For a sanity check, I IM’d my friend Rivka, a proper geek and editor of “Do you want to video chat?” I typed. The answer came back in all caps: HELL TO THE NO.” It was early. She was probably in her sweats. I was.

So what’s my problem? As with many things, it goes back to childhood fears. I would hear about the video phones of the future and cringe – from a very young age. Now I lay me down to sleep, please protect my dog and family, and don’t make video phones a reality. For me, Umi has a Big-Brother quality, even though one can allegedly close the shutter and prevent the living room or the bedroom from being a window on the world’s network (just imagine the possibilities).

Let’s say video chat takes off in a big way despite my personal issues. Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicts that it would take 72 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks during calendar year 2014.

Naturally Cisco wants to capture a good share of the consumer video market. In that vein, telecom consultant Tom Nolle looks at the video domino effect that could influence changes in service provider business models to deal with the video tsunami. Even though I’m a huge Internet booster, I won’t contribute to the madness by asking anyone to watch my dog’s tricks over IP – it would take too long to position them in front of the TV.

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