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Home telepresence demand to grow despite hiccups

February 7, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
Telepresence offerings have largely been targeted at enterprise users with expensive hardware, but it has in recent years become more affordable and more easily accessible to home users through various endpoint devices such as PCs and mobile devices.

February 7, 2012 by Kevin Kwang via
-- Henry Dewing, principal analyst at Forrester Research, pointed out that telepresence started out as a very business-focused market as the large screens and high-definition codecs and good Internet connection meant that the tech requirements and price were too high for the average consumer.

However, tapping the retail market has not been easy, highlighted by networking giant's Cisco System's lack of success. While Cisco's Umi telepresence offering was targeted at consumers, the analyst noted in his e-mail that many of the initial customers were affluent business people or early adopters of new technology who were willing to give the technology a try. Additionally, its prospects were "hobbled" by cable operators' delivery channels, which could not support the necessary price points and technical requirements to allow such a product to flourish, he added.

In the end, Cisco decided to cease selling new Umi hardware last December, although it said it would continue supporting existing customers for the foreseeable future, according to tech news site CRN.

"Cisco withdrew from the market as the company, together with its channel partners, was struggling to create and deliver the correct sales model and the on-premise customer service processes that consumers would accept," Dewing explained.

A Cisco spokesperson said the company, upon reviewing the business and Umi's distribution strategy in April last year, decided to integrate it within its business telepresence portfolio and stop offering the product to consumers. She added that while sales have ended, the service remains unchanged and existing customers will continue to be able to use the service to "make calls to other Umi subscribers or to Google video chat accounts". 

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