Thursday, October 7, 2010
Cisco Systems Inc., seeking to become a bigger name in consumer electronics, said Wednesday that it's going to start selling a $599box that turns living-room TV sets into big videophones.
It's the first entry by Cisco, the world's largest maker of computer-networking gear, into a home videoconferencing market that's been dominated by free, PC-oriented services such as Skype SA.
Cisco said that the "umi" device, pronounced "you me," will include a camera and a TV set-top box and will be controlled by a remote. It will give consumers such features as the ability to retrieve video messages left for them when they're not at home.
The service requires users to have a fast Internet connection and a high-definition TV set and will cost $25 per month on top of the purchase price.
Cisco emphasizes that the system will produce high-definition, lifelike video, but the quality will also depend on the speed of the home's broadband connection.
For high-definition video, the umi needs an Internet connection that can send, or upload, data at 1.5 megabits per second, higher than that of typical DSL or cable services. At lower speeds, the umi falls back to standard definition, which is already available for free with Skype.
For the very best "1080p" resolution, umi needs a 3.5 megabit per second upload, available only with the most expensive cable modem packages or Verizon Communications Inc.'s FiOS fiber-optic service.
In a demonstration to reporters, a video call over umi started out with some choppy audio, which was attributed to adjustments the system made to account for ambient noise. In general, the video looked flawless and sound was good.
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