Cisco takes on Skype with "ūmi" HD telepresence

Cisco has announced its Cisco ūmi video conferencing device. It will let people connect through HD video calls using existing HD television and  broadband internet connections.

ūmi is essentially an HD camera, a console and a remote that hook up to your telly. Cisco says it will automatically adjust to lighting conditions and various room sizes. In the promo video Cisco boasts the service has screen panning as well, to increase immersion.

Once Cisco ūmi is connected to an HD television and a wired or wireless broadband connection, a remote control gives access to an on-screen user interface. From here users can make calls, access video messages, manage contacts, and customise their profile and settings.  And in case people were worried about leaving their PC and missing a chat, ūmi has a feature that delivers new video message notices via text.

Cisco has clearly been having kind words with Google. If you don’t have ūmi, it’s still possible to chat using a webcam and Google video chat.

Essentially Cisco is taking on Skype.

Cisco has been gearing up for this launch for a good few months now. In August Cisco announced plans to buy ExtendMedia a software firm specialising in content management systems (CMS) for multi-screen video.

In the same month it was also rumoured to be setting its sights on Skype, a clear competitor. Previously Cisco has focused on video conferencing in the enterprise space.  

Cisco really wants to make this happen. It has partnered with Verizon to bring ūmi to FiOS  customers early next year. Cisco has also penned a deal with the Oprah Winfrey Show to use the technology on-screen. Scoff all you want but Middle America loves Oprah and it’s really pushing to get families excited. Check the promo videos complete with friendly buzzwords and twee background music out, below, for proof.

 John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco, said: “Cisco is bringing people together, driving new video experiences that change the way we communicate, connect, and enjoy entertainment – in the home, at work, and on the go.

“Cisco ūmi will bring the unique telepresence experience into living rooms and change the way we are able to be together with family and friends.  We envision a future where technologies like this will play a role in connecting consumers with businesses to enable the delivery of new services, ranging from education, to health care, to financial services – to the home.”

Chambers and his gang keep saying Cisco will be “bringing people together”. What it actually is doing is launching a smart looking, high definition competitor to Skype with a lot of moolah behind it for the marketing push it needs. The world and its dog have known Cisco’s up to something big in the consumer space – sorry, we do hate that word – and it looks like this is it.