At $599, Cisco’s Umi Telepresence Is a Non-Starter

Cisco (s CSCO) rolled out its consumer telepresence offering this morning, unveiled under the Umi brand. The offering, which can be used with existing HDTVs, is available for pre-order today, but a price tag of $599 will probably be a little out of reach for Umi’s target market.

There are four pieces to the Cisco Umi solution: a video camera that sits on top of your HDTV, a set-top box that connects to the user’s broadband connection, a remote control for navigating the interface and making calls, and a cloud service that routes calls. The offering can deliver up to 1080p video, and connects via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

The Umi solution is everything you might expect from a Cisco telepresence offering; the video is beautiful, of course, but the offering is pricey. The hardware costs $599, and the solution comes with an additional $24.99 monthly charge for unlimited calls.

Cisco is going into field trials with Verizon (s VZ) and plans to bring Umi to FiOS customers in early 2011. However, users can use Umi on any broadband network; to do 1080p video, it needs just a 3.5Mbps connection.

Since there will be a fairly limited number of consumers that have access to Umi at launch, Cisco has teamed up with Google (s goog) to enable users to connect the Umi telepresence service with GTalk video chat users. Since GTalk is fairly pervasive at this point, the partnership will give early adopters at least a few friends to chat with.

The product is available for pre-order beginning today at, and beginning Oct. 18 from It will become generally available on Nov. 14 from Cisco’s Umi website, Best Buy and Magnolia Home Theater stores and the Best Buy (s bby) website.

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