Cisco Unveils Home Telepresence Unit

By : Subscribe to Gabriel's | October 7, 2010 5:33 AM IST

In a widely expected move, Cisco introduced a consumer home telepresence product aimed at bringing the enterprise related technology to the living room.

The product, called ?mi, will connect to an existing HD television and a broadband internet connection. The ?mi set will include an HD camera, a console and a remote. Once it is connected to an HD television and a broadband connection, a remote control provides access to an on-screen user interface. Users can make calls, access video messages, manage contacts, and customize their profile and settings.

Previously, telepresence products were seen mostly in the corporate world, as a way for businesses to connect with other offices and clients.

"Cisco ?mi will bring the unique telepresence experience into living rooms and change the way we are able to be together with family and friends. 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 to the home," John Chambers, chairman and chief executive officer of Cisco, said in a statement.

In addition, Cisco will work with Verizon on the project to bring FIOS customers the experience early next year. The companies have been conducting trials of Cisco ?mi over Verizon's fiber optic network.

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"Verizon's high-IQ networks are incredible incubators of innovation that connect our customers to the things and the people they care about, how and when they want. We plan to be the first service provider to offer Cisco ?mi to our customers, delivering an amazingly clear and lifelike experience that brings family and friends into your living room," Eric Bruno, vice president of consumer product management at Verizon, said in a statement.

Cisco says the suggested retail price of ?mi will be $599 with a monthly fee of $24.99 for unlimited ?mi calls, video messaging and video storage.

Cisco said it's looking to bring the ?mi product to Best Buy's Magnolia Home Theatre stores before this holiday season. The company is also undergoing a major marketing effort to get the ?mi name out there including an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, a national advertising campaign featuring actress Ellen Page and a mall tour.

Many of Cisco's telepresence competitors expressed doubt as to whether or not the company's home-based product would be successful. In an interview before the unveiling of the project, Marty Hollander, Vidyo's vice president of marketing, said at its reported price point, Cisco's product was too expensive. Vidyo supplies telepresence software and architecture, used by many of Cisco's competitors.  

"At $500 a room, that is not a mass consumer product," Hollander said. "Not when you can do skype for free along with a webcam."

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