Cisco ambitious on video calling with umi, but will there be takers?

POSTED BY Global Administrator
With up front costs of $600, and ongoing fees of $25 per month, Cisco’s marketing will have to be pretty good to sign up subcribers to its TelePresence service, umi. And while it may have two USPs- introducing video calling to the TV rather than the laptop or desktop, and almost certainly better quality- that is a lot to pay for a service which is almost free through Skype.

One also has to admire Apple for introducing mobile video calling to the mobile device, even though it is only available via WiFi and to only to an identical handset, but that market faces challenges too. In particular, take up is likely to be held back by a a lack of interoperability between different devices.

Video calling has had several false dawns and has remained flat in recent years. Our latest report on the smartphone market forecasts that there will be 29 million smartphone video users by 2015. Respectable, but not a mass market by any stretch of the  imagination.

Some technologies might seem like a good idea but fail to capture the imagination of the consumer (video calling could be one of them), others are overtaken by how quickly the market moves (BT’s fixed mobile convergence product, Fusion?)  and others are launched before the technology is ready (remember the Apple Newton?)

Video calling, to my mind, faces the dual challenges of struggling to find genuine interest from the  consumer and being tricky from a technological perspective. The steep pricing, I would guess, reflects a large amount of development time, some of which may have taken place before Skype made  it possible on a standard PC with a cheap as chips video camera.