Cisco Finally Drops ūmi

3:30 PM -- When Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) started its restructuring last year, it wasn't hard to pick ūmi as likely cut. (See Cisco Starts Spring Cleaning.)

Like the Flip camera, ūmi was part of Cisco's push to put video networking in consumers' hands. But some of us contended from the start that this didn't have to be Cisco's job. It's not as if video's success was a question, especially with the iPhone having already become a big deal.

So, it's not surprising to hear the ūmi product is discontinued, as Cisco confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday. The service will live on, so those who did spend $600 on a unit (or a drastically lower price, if they bought later) will still be able to pay $25 per month to keep the units alive.

Cisco did make the ūmi look nice. Here's part of a demo they did at the 2010 launch -- filmed on a Flip camera, by the way:

But ūmi's price tag, and the thought of paying for it as an ongoing service, seemed like too much from the outset.

The goal of getting high-end telepresence into consumer hands might not be worthwhile, anyway. At the 2010 ūmi launch, Cisco executive Marthin de Beer likened the experience to chocolate -- something you had to experience in order to get hooked. (See Cisco's TelePresence Enters New Chamber.)

But I have to wonder if expectations for video calling will shrink just as they have for telephone calls. We put up with bad reception, speakerphones and the use of smartphones in crowds, because it's more convenient to make calls in those situations. Likewise, video doesn't have to be studio-perfect if all you're doing is asking, "What's up?" or trash-talking a friend during the Super Bowl.

For most of us, as Business Insider points out, Skype is good enough.

What's interesting is that Cisco is not done with the consumer segment. The company still plans to appear at CES next week, and I'd have to guess they'll be talking abut Videoscape, which got introduced at the last CES. (See CES: Cisco Unveils Master Plan for Video.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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