Cisco’s “Umi” Connects People through HDTV

by Matt Klassen on October 8, 2010

There is no question that Cisco is known primarily for its enterprise business solutions and its communications technology portfolio; a company focused on making it easier for people to connect with each other the world over. But that being said, there are few tools in the Cisco communications arsenal that one could really call consumer oriented, the type of product that you or I may pick up from the local Best Buy.

But with news continuing to emerge regarding the next evolution of television through the developed of Google and Apple TV systems, its clear that Cisco didn’t want to be left behind. But what does Cisco know about TV?

In a word, nothing, but what Cisco does know is communication, so why not turn your TV into a HD communications hub. Now there’s an idea! So with that, Cisco unveiled its latest communications system, Cisco Umi.

Yesterday Cisco Systems revealed its latest creation, Cisco Umi (pronounced You-Me), a consumer oriented telepresence and telecommunications system that allows people to connect with each other via video-conferencing on their HD televisions. What does this all mean? For starters, it means unprecedented ease of video communication all in crystal-clear HD quality.

The entire Umi system is designed around video calls and messaging, with the added bonus of connecting to your favourite social networking sites and websites much like Google or Apple TV. Beyond that, however, Umi contains a strong VoIP offering as well, meaning that you are able to place and receive calls through the system—with the ability to toggle video chat on and off of course.

The system itself contains a variety of different components—all of which need to be purchased—including a default Cisco HD camera with embedded microphone, a set top box, and a remote. Beyond that, however, you’ll have to provide your own HD TV and internet connection for the entire setup to work. While no external microphone is provided, reports indicate that Cisco’s noise cancellation technology is more than adequate.

So what will Cisco’s Umi telepresence communications system cost you? How about a staggering $599 for just the hardware with an additional $24.99 monthly service fee, not to mention however much you paid for that gigantic monstrosity you call a television.

But more than just another entry into the burgeoning web TV communications market one has to ask, is this sort of advanced television experience something people are looking for? Do we want our televisions turned into de facto video phones?

With the addition of mobile operating systems like Android into TV technology, it seems that televisions are, in fact, simply becoming giant smartphones. But if bigger is better when it comes to smartphones, don’t you think we’d still see the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (aka The Brick) hanging around?

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