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If you've ever dreamed of The Jetsons' video teleconferencing vision of the future, have deep pockets, and have somehow slept through the past several years, has Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) got a gadget for you!
Cisco unveiled the Umi Telepresence yesterday, the enterprise networking giant's first push into consumer videoconferencing.
It's a neat product, but the Umi will gain zero traction because of a stiff price tag that would even make Rosie the robotic maid blush.
Yes, HD video calling on existing high-def televisions is cool. The Umi's spec sheet is impressive. However, there aren't too many people who will line up to pay $600 for the device -- much less the $25 a month subscription required to actually use the thing.
Rip van Winkle may be jumping for joy, but those of us who haven't dozed off over the past few years are right to be skeptical. $25 a month for unlimited Umi calls, video messaging, and video storage isn't much of a deal after forking over $600 for the system itself.
They may not be HD, but Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) offer wi-fi video chat platforms for free. In a fitting "in your face" coup, Logitech (Nasdaq: LOGI ) trumped Cisco's announcement several hours later. Buy a $300 Logitech Revue powered by Google TV, and a $150 Logitech TV Cam, and you can be videoconferencing in high-def without the monthly bills.
Cisco will still try to nab the stupid. The Umi will be marketed through Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) . It's going to get some serious exposure on Oprah Winfrey's show. A mall tour kicks off next month, providing live demonstrations. The Umi will be actively marketed to Verizon's (NYSE: VZ ) FiOS customers.
It's still going to flop, adult industry usage notwithstanding.
After all, if $600 up front and $300 a year seems outlandish, ask yourself who you're going to call? If you want to visually chat up your parents or grandchildren in high-def, you'll need two Umi systems and subscriptions. Sure, the system can also suboptimally work with Google video chat, but other interoperability is sorely lacking. How many people will keep the network effect going? How many will buy this thing, find that they couldn't hoodwink anyone else into signing up, and make a beeline to the Best Buy return counter?
This will be a textbook case of subtraction by multiplication.
Nice try, Cisco. An angry Mr. Spacely will see you now.
Is Rick wrong? Does the Cisco Umi have a shot? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.