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The scenario of granny and grandpa watching their grandchild's first steps while sitting on their couch thousands of miles away has long been one of the central promises of telepresence in the home. It's a technology that basically sells itself once people get a glimpse of what it can do.
Now it's here, and Cisco is about to launch a marketing blitz to get telepresence firmly ensconced in the minds of consumers. But while Cisco's Umi Telepresence is an impressive and sensibly designed product, there are some potential holes in the strategy that could make consumers' march to home telepresence something less than an enthusiastic stampede.
1. Is Umi Telepresence Too Expensive?
Impressive as it may be, Umi Telepresence is going to have to come down a lot in price for it to gain critical mass in the home, and this would be true even if the economy weren't still stumbling around like Charlie Sheen at a Malibu beach party.
At $599 for the hardware, and $24.99 for a monthly subscription, Umi Telepresence represents a significant investment for many folks, especially given the plenitude of free Web videoconferencing options. Of course, these free products can't hold a candle to the high-definition experience Umi offers, but a lot of people are still looking at the technology through the lens of "It's good enough, and free."
Another factor, of course, is that all parties communicating through Umi are going to have to have their own systems, which adds to the collective investment. "It's like the first person who bought a fax machine, who quickly realized they needed others to buy fax machines too in order for it to have any value," said Gary Berzack, CTO and COO of eTribeca, a New York-based solution provider.
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