Sunday, December 26, 2010

ümi: I Just Don't Get It

So, I'm watching The Mentalist on CBS (don't you judge me!) and a commercial for Cisco's new ümi product came on. Curious, I went to Cisco's site to see what it was about. I clicked on the "what you need page". On the page was the following graphic:

I mean, we've already got a number of free video chat options out there. If I want to use my laptop - be it Windows, Macintosh or Linux - I can use Skype or Google video chat options. Apple joined the game with their FaceTime option on the newest generation of iPhones (and presumably all future hardware offerings). All I need is an iDevice and a cellular subscription. MicroSoft has a video chat offering via their new Kinnect device - all I need is the Kinnect and, presumably, XBox Live gold.
What I don't get is how ümi fits in? I mean, that they're advertising it on TV during regular programming. So, presumably it's aimed at "regular people". And, judging by the price shown in the above graphic, it's meant to be within financial reach of "regular people". But, there's the matter of all those other video offerings. All of those other offerings are an easy sell. I mean, how can you beat the "free" of Skype or Google (and presumably other stuff for your PC)? And, even if you want something that doesn't require your PC, you have offerings from Apple and Microsoft that leverage other multi-use products that have a decent (and rapidly growing) installed base.
So, what's the compelling case for ümi? I mean, it's not free - in fact, it costs me more than my Vonage subscription. Presumably, since the commercial (and the web site) don't mention that they work with any of the previously named incumbent competitors, what's the value proposition. I've got to buy a dedicated-purpose device. I've got to spend $25/mo. on top of my other monthly bills (in my case XBox Live Gold and Vonage) for products I already own and that already allow me to run competing video-chat products. You don't seem to be offering interoperability in an already splintered market - you're just trying to splinter it further. So, "what's up Cisco? Why would I possibly want the ümi?"

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