Cisco Done Selling Umi Personal Telepresence Units

Cisco in December ceased selling new Umi personal telepresence hardware, although the networking titan says it will continue to support existing Umi customers for the forseeable future.

"While we are ending the sale of Umi, the Umi service remains unchanged," said a Cisco spokesperson in an e-mail to CRN Tuesday. "Existing customers will continue to be able to use the service to make calls to other Umi subscribers or to Google video chat accounts."

The spokesperson said the decision took effect in Dec. 2011, about eight months after Cisco said it would blend Umi, a consumer-grade telepresence product into its business telepresence portfolio as part of a dramatic restructuring of its overall consumer unit.

Umi is now part of Cisco's Emerging Business Group, headed by Marthin De Beer, Cisco senior vice president. De Beer controls Cisco's overall Video and Collaboration portfolio following a December restructuring at Cisco, and his group includes Cisco Collaboration and Communications, Telepresence Technology, Service Provider Video Technology and Emerging Technologies.

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Reports of Umi's demise circled the blogosphere late last week after a blog post from Network World suggested that Cisco had ceased selling Umi and that retail partners like Best Buy had recently had a "fire sale" on the product.

Cisco first introduced Umi in October 2010 -- a personal telepresence unit Cisco described as a transformative experience in video, and designed to follow Cisco's success in business-grade telepresence. The cost was about a $600 investment in hardware and software, followed by a $24.99-a-month subscription.

Cisco VARs interviewed by CRN at the time, however, suggested the price points were too high for consumers used to cheap-to-free services like Skype, and that Umi held little interest for channel partners. Cisco has since continued to fine-tune its SMB video strategy, including with services such as Cisco Callway, which combines Cisco TelePresence endpoints with a subscription-based telepresence service hosted and managed by Cisco and sold through solution providers.