Cisco has quietly pulled the plug on its ill-fated consumer home videoconferencing system, Umi. This could be the final blow to the company’s once-grand consumer plans.Umi was introduced a little over a year ago, in October, 2010. And it always seemed like the brainchild of a wealthy Cisco executive with no concept of what people are willing to pay for home video conferencing.
While Cisco has not formally announced the death of Umi, it ceased sale of the product to consumers, a Cisco spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider.
Umi offered full HD videoconferencing in 1080p (720 for recording). But it cost $600 for a three-piece set of hardware which included the camera, a controller, and a set-top box that linked Umi to the broadband connection. In March, Cisco introduced lower cost, lower bandwidth options. For $400 you could get a unit that only supported 720p. But Umi also required a monthly service fee of $10 per month. For all that, Umi owners still had to supply their own HD TVs and pay for their own ISP connection.
Compare that to the required cost for Skype: free.
Last year, when Cisco shut down its Flip video camera unit, it moved Umi into its business Telepresence line under the care of Marthin De Beer. This was part of De Beer’s new role to focus on emerging technologies. In March, De Beer promised more investment in Umi to occur over the summer.
But today, a Cisco spokesperson confirmed that the company, “decided to no longer sell Cisco Umi hardware as a consumer offering. While we are ending the sale of Umi, the Umi service remains unchanged. Existing customers will continue to be able to use the service to make calls to other ūmi subscribers or to Google video chat accounts.”
One of Umi’s major consumer outlets was Best Buy. The retailer put UMI on a fire sale in its Outlet centre, where it sells discontinued items, and other things that it wants out of its warehouse already. Best Buy was offering two Umi setups for $400. But since Cisco has ceased offering new service contracts for Umi, it is questionable just how much of a bargain that really was.
Except for wireless routers known by the Linksys brand, (acquired in 2003 for $500 million), Cisco has pretty much stunk at building things consumers want. After its awful 2011, the company seems to be less distracted with consumer products and re-focused again on enterprises and service providers.