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Unraveling Cisco's Plans for Umi

July 6, 2011 | William Zimmerman
Thumbnail image for cisco-umi.jpg

There seems to be a certain amount of confusion about the effect that Cisco's recent corporate- and portfolio-level changes have had on umi, and role the company expects it to play in business environments. To track down the source of the confusion we really need look no further than Tasman Drive. The press release announcing Cisco's restructuring seemed written to intentionally obfuscate umi's positioning. It stated that "Cisco will...integrate Cisco umi into the company's Business TelePresence product line and operate through an enterprise and service provider go-to-market model, consistent with existing business TelePresence efforts." To be perfectly honest, when the announcement was made I couldn't make heads or tails of this. In what sense was umi being integrated into Cisco's business-focused telepresence portfolio? Did it mean umi would be sold solely as a video conferencing solution for businesses, not consumers? Or would it still be sold to consumers, but the product would simply reside in a different business unit? Or was it now targeted at both businesses and consumers? Cisco wasn't providing further comment. Maybe they didn't themselves have the answers at the time.

And I couldn't rely on blogs and the trade press, since there was no consensus on umi's fate. Some talked about umi in past tense, implying that nails had been firmly driven into its coffin: "Umi...had no chance against the free alternatives offered by Skype, Apple, or Google, or even lower-priced offerings from Logitech."

This echoed a statement often reposted in the blogosphere: "Cisco announced plans get out of the consumer business apart from its Linksys networking products, killing its Flip handheld camcorders, Eos social media platform and Umi consumer video conferencing device." (Emphasis added.) In some (but not all) cases the blog included a link to the original article, which describes Cisco as not actually "killing" umi, but having it "folded into the company's business plans"...which is no less vague than the Cisco press release.

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