Cisco, Verizon push TelePresence into the home

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) made it official yesterday that it will extend its ongoing TelePresence videoconferencing efforts into the home with a premium service delivered over Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) FiOS network.

If you're a FiOS subscriber, you can purchase Cisco's $599 "umi" device from your local Best Buy. And if you're really anxious to get the service, don't worry as Cisco will be taking pre-orders.

Customers that do decide to purchase what could be defined as a premium home TelePresence system will get unlimited video calls, message and storage for $24.99 a month.

And while there are a number of free video services that consumers can get via Skype or Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Steve Hilton, Principal Analyst Analysys Mason in an interview with FierceTelecom, that the joint Cisco/Verizon service will find its niche with users that want an enhanced video conferencing experience.  

"Neither Skype nor Google video for video communications are bad and both are cheap (free)," he said. "But I have a feeling that the HD experience with umiT will leave the rest looking pretty pathetic. The solution isn't for everyone, but nothing Cisco makes is for everyone; they know their target market."

Eric Bruno, Verizon's vice president for consumer product management, is fine with that reality. "Is everybody in the planet going to rush out and buy TelePresence box, no. Will a significant number of people be interested, yes," he said in a Reuters article.

Just the same, video conferencing competitor Polycom (Nasdaq: PLCM), which has been offering TelePresence to homes through business customers that have teleworker force, applauded Cisco's move.

Cullen Childress, senior director of product management for Polycom, says that while it will primarily reach the residential user through partners like IBM and Microsoft, believes that Cisco's move will help drive greater acceptance of consumer videoconferencing applications.

"This is exciting for the industry because obviously anything that starts to showcase the high quality experience to the home and getting folks more familiar with video as a communications platform starts to break down some of the cultural barriers that using video as a communications paradigm has created for all of us," he said. "If you can break down those barriers, you can get more ubiquity."

For more:
- Reuters has this article
- here's FierceVoIP's coverage

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