Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Like BoomTown Said: Cisco Announces "Umi" Consumer Telepresence

In a post last week, BoomTown wrote that Cisco would introduce a consumer telepresence product.

It did today in San Francisco at a press event. It is called, inexplicably, “Umi” telepresence.

I’ll be honest, it sounds like the kind of sushi I typically refuse to eat, because I am not as adventurous as I like to pretend I am.

Actually, it seems to be a variation on you-me.

Get it? You and me and telepresence. As in “Star Trek” for non-geeks.

According to Wikipedia, here are some other definitions for the word:

“Umi may refer to: Umi, ‘sea’ in Japanese language; UMI, Universal Mobile Interface; Umi, Fukuoka, a town in Japan; Umi-a-Liloa, the king of the island of Hawaii; Umi Ryuzaki, a character in the fictional manga series ‘Magic Knight Rayearth’ by CLAMP.”

“Connect with a touch of the button,” is the motto for the giant Silicon Valley networking company for Umi.

And, frankly, I wish I could have telepresenced from my bed at home with it.

You can, using Umi with your existing high-definition television and high-speed broadband. It’s in three parts: A camera, a remote control and, ugh, yet another set-top box to pile on the rest on the shelf in your home living room, as you can see below.

Cisco said the device is scheduled to be available to consumers on November 14 in Best Buy (BBY) Magnolia Home Theater stores, as well as at bestbuy.com and umi.cisco.com “for the suggested retail price of $599 with a monthly fee of $24.99 for unlimited ?mi calls, video messaging and video storage.”

At the short and sweet event, Cisco execs touted their entry into the crowded consumer video-conferencing arena.

“It’s all about tasting the chocolate,” said Cisco exec Gina Clark about her box of Umi, which will work with Google Voice Chat–but not Skype and Apple (AAPL) iChat yet.

It also has the seal of approval from Oprah Winfrey, who will doubtlessly use it in some Oprah manner on her talk show.

Clark mentions tasting the chocolate several more times to knock the point home that if you try it, you’ll like it.

I can’t believe I ate the whole Umi!

Now, Cisco–which really is obsessed with the chocolate metaphor today–is making me have a chomp in a demo.

And, while I am no reviewer, it is pretty sweet, and looks great, well beyond what is available via Internet video chat.

Until the inevitable shaky video appears, here is the full press release from Cisco (CSCO):


Cisco umi Press Release


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work