Cisco Umi
Cisco Umi - sell your soul for HD jumping jacks.
Cisco Umi
Cisco Umi - sell your soul for HD jumping jacks.

Cisco Umi, a video-conferencing system for the home, is a perfect example of too much corporate think. This is a product that screams out-of-touch. However, if you’re a Cisco executive then it’s spot on; after all, who doesn’t want to work from home using all the same whiz-bang tech toys you have at the office?

In case you haven’t heard, the would-be animal or sushi roll Umi is an HD videoconferencing system designed for the living room. Based on Cisco’s innovative telepresence technology, it connects family and friends together on the big screen. The system includes an HD Camera, a “console”, and a remote. Priced at $599, and requiring a $24.95 monthly fee, there’s no word yet if a family-sized IT department or consumer-ready off-shore support team is included.

There are so many problems with this product it’s hard not to declare it DOA:

  • It’s too expensive – Skype and others such as Apple FaceTime already offer this capability free (granted the quality is probably not as high, but do consumers really need 1080p jumping jacks?).
  • It’s too complicated – there are too many moving parts and that Cisco is partnering with Magnolia Hi Fi suggests this is not a mainstream consumer product.
  • Consumers do not like recurring monthly fees (just ask the satellite companies. Hulu? What…! Where…?).

Cisco umi CameraI expect Cisco, a company that I greatly admire, will eventually get this right… possibly. However, I don’t think this is purely about price. It’s hard to imagine a family during umi focus groups saying, “This is exactly what I want!”

Cisco is a victim here of too much corporate think.

Their incredible success in the enterprise space is an Achilles heel when it comes to understanding the home, and consumers. I’ve seen this happen at Cisco for years. Look at their Linksys acquisition which flailed for years. Then there’s Flip; the jury is still out on that one. Granted, Cisco is a quick study, and the culture is built to win. But they really need to re-think how they approach the consumer market.

Update 10/6/2010 1:40pm PT – Statement from Logitech

I just received this statement from Logitech regarding the Cisco Umi launch. Logitech definitely understands consumer marketing. I don’t know  much about Logitech Revue, but stay tuned for more – Clint.

“We congratulate Cisco on bringing video calling to the living room – it’s a great day for consumers and the video communications industry. We’re excited to introduce our own HD video calling offering for the living room with our Logitech Revue with Google TV announcement later today. We believe consumers want the best and most seamless experience which means HD video calling not only from TV to TV, but also TV to PC or Mac (or vice versa). We also believe consumers will want a free service and one that is integrated into a broader entertainment experience, which is why Logitech is excited to introduce an integrated HD video calling offering with Google TV.”

-Eric Kintz, VP and general manager of Logitech’s video business

Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear