is the phone dead? the breakthrough of telepresence into the consumer market

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In February this year I was in London at our annual sales kick-off and we had a session with Tandberg. They were holding their sales pitch - before they got acquired by Cisco.

As usual they had an energetic marketing story to promote video and as always with video they used the power of the demo. It was done with an hotel internet connection. Every travelling user knows this is not the best place to demo solutions that are dependent on quality. HD video request a flawless connection. However he definitely got his story across.

Every business user travelling once and a while knows what's its like to be away for a couple of days and not able to see your wife and kids. Just mentioning you being away for a couple of days, will make them grumpy. For selling video to business users the work-live balance argument is a very strong case.

The Tandberg executive mentioned that he uses video to keep in contact with his family when travelling. So what he did is started his videoconferencing unit and he dialled home via video. And there were four kids sitting behind the videoconferencing unit, laughing and making jokes. He talked to them shortly and mentioned this was how he kept in touch. Of course not a lot of us can afford a business video unit at home, so this looked like it would only be for the executive users.

I do not travel that often, but a couple of times a year I do and I wanted to use our business Tandberg Movi to realize this as well. My wife wasn't that excited, technology scares her. Only now that she sees the benefit and the ease-of-use is she is convinced.

Now Cisco has bought Tandberg and as indicated earlier this year, plans to release videoconferencing for consumers together with service providers (i.e. France Telecom). As of today the genie is out of the bottle and they have introduced their product named "Cisco Umi" (see link for their product page).

Initially this will be for the fanatics and people that have some spare money for gadgets. But it is mentioned that even if you don't have a unit you can also join via GoogleVideo Chat, so no user is left behind. But of course you don't want to start your pc if you want to be reachable.   So why not have a set-top box on your HD TV, which you already have. It also has video voicemail.

Pricing details:

  • Buy price of: $599;
  • You must use it together with a Monthly Plan of $24,95 a month.

It will give you quality of up to Full HD 1080p video calling, which will be dependent on your home broadband connection, but you don't need particularly high bandwidth to get good 720p video quality.

More technical information can be found here in their datasheet.

See first commercial on from Umi on Youtube

I would say it's just a matter of time before you don't use your fixed phone anymore and use HD video to keep in contact with everyone. I really believe this product and service will change the consumer market and will affect the business world as well.

Nicolas Jacquey
Jako Boonekamp

After a Masters in Business Economics and Information Management on the University of Rotterdam , Jako decided that he preferred IT over sheer numbers, economics and finance. His 10-year career has taken him through several Telecoms and Integration companies. On a daily basis Jako is in contact with multinational global customers mainly in the Netherlands and known for their easy adoption of new technologies. He continues to write about a range of IT and communications topics such as Networks, Security, Cloud Computing, Voice, Video/Telepresence and Unfied Communications. (twitter @djeekcom)