Cisco’s umi: Not for mi

Cisco’s marketing department has continued their cuddly product naming  with the announcement of umi (pronounced you-me) last week. It’s basically Skype or in Cisco-speak, “telepresense,” for regular folks.

And by regular folks they mean TV-watchers with an Internet connection but without a laptop and video camera.  I’m sure Cisco business development crunched the numbers and decided there’s a ton of money selling  $600 set top boxes with a $24.99 monthly charge to this segment.

The other perpetrators involved in this scheme include BestBuy, which will sell the gear, and Verizon, which plans to resell the service to its Fios customers.

Umi may make sense for computer illiterate, TV-centric types. Cisco’s umi commercial  envisions theatrical families who perform little skits for their friends, letting you in their words, “be with them.”

I do get the idea and raison-d’etre behind umi. But I suspect that for computer phobic types, it is probably just easier to go next door and chat with a neighbor.

Considering the state of the economy, you wonder about the consumer’s appetite for paying $25 monthly for something that can be had for free. Maybe this market segment doesn’t own a cell phone, so Cisco assumes they’ll have a little money to spring for Internet video.

On the other hand, doesn’t that computer illiterate but friendly, extroverted family in the commercial know a 14-year old in the neighborhood who can set them up with Skype?


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