Well hey -- Cisco's finally announced the consumer-level HD video conferencing system that's been rumored for a while now. Called Umi, (you me -- get it?) the system consists of a 1080p camera module, remote, and a separate set-top box. Cisco says Umi will allow for full 1080p video calls with 720p/30 recording, with a fallback to 720p / 480p if bandwidth is constrained. The camera itself has a glass lens with an optical zoom, autofocus, auto exposure and auto white balance, as well as motorized pan, tilt, and zoom. There's also a motorized privacy shutter, which is a nice touch. The service is compatible with Google Voice and Video Chat, and Cisco says it's looking into FaceTime integration as well -- we'd expect Skype and Fring are also high on the list of potential partners.

Cisco says it'll be demoing Umi on Oprah and launching an ad campaign with Ellen Page in the runup to a holiday launch, but none of that will distract from the required $24.99 monthly / $275 annually Umi service plan and $599 MSRP. We don't know how well that's going to go over with anyone, but that'll give you something else to ponder along with this new Cisco slogan we just came up with:

Cisco Umi: Now you have to wear pants.
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Cisco ūmi Brings Family and Friends to the Living Room
at the Touch of a Button

Home Telepresence Product Delivers Amazingly Clear and Lifelike Video Get-Togethers Through Existing HD Televisions

SAN JOSE, Calif, October 6, 2010 – Cisco today introduced Cisco ūmi™ telepresence, a first-of-its-kind consumer product that brings family and friends together in HD video, whether they are around the corner or across the country. Cisco ūmi connects to an existing HD television and a broadband internet connection to create a video communications experience that is so clear, natural and lifelike, that users will see and hear their loved ones, right down to the twinkle in their eyes and the tone of their voices, as if they were in the same room.

Cisco ūmi, which includes an HD camera, a console and a remote, takes advantage of Cisco's heritage in business telepresence, to deliver an immersive video experience that fits into every home, automatically adjusting to lighting conditions and various room sizes to provide superior video and audio performance.

Once Cisco ūmi is connected to an HD television and a wired or wireless broadband connection, a remote control provides access to an on-screen user interface, through which users can make ūmi calls, access video messages, manage contacts, and customize their profile and settings. Users can also record their own ūmi videos, which they can share on Facebook™, on YouTube™, or via email. Users can even keep in touch with people who don't have ūmi by placing and receiving video calls from any computer with a webcam and Google video chat.

"Cisco is bringing people together, driving new video experiences that change the way we communicate, connect, and enjoy entertainment – in the home, at work, and on the go," said John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco. "Cisco ūmi will bring the unique telepresence experience into living rooms and change the way we are able to be together with family and friends. We envision a future where technologies like this will play a role in connecting consumers with businesses to enable the delivery of new services, ranging from education, to health care, to financial services – to the home."

"Cisco ūmi is the ultimate way to capture the simple joys of being together with our distant friends and loved ones, whether they are around the corner or across the country," said Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco's emerging technologies business group. "From singing happy birthday every year to reading bedtime stories every night, ūmi lets friends and families experience life's special moments together."

Cisco is also working with Verizon to bring the ūmi experience to Verizon FiOS customers early next year. The two companies have been conducting successful trials of Cisco ūmi over Verizon's 100 percent fiber-optic network, which delivers what a 2010 PCMAG.COM reader's survey rated the fastest Internet speeds in the United States.

"Verizon's high-IQ networks are incredible incubators of innovation that connect our customers to the things andthe people they care about, how and when they want," said Eric Bruno, vice president, of consumer product management at Verizon. "We plan to be the first service provider to offer Cisco ūmi to our customers, delivering an amazingly clear and lifelike experience that brings family and friends into your living room."

Cisco is working with Best Buy to bring the Cisco ūmi experience to Magnolia Home Theatre stores this holiday season. Within Magnolia Home Theatre stores, consumers will be able to experience Cisco ūmi, get expert advice on the product and required broadband, as well as purchase Cisco ūmi, with installation and support provide by The Geek Squad.

Cisco ūmi Key Features and Benefits
• Users enjoy amazingly clear and lifelike full HD experience.
• An existing HD television and a broadband Internet connection are all that is needed.
• Cisco ūmi is easy to set up and simple to use – users can be together at the touch of a button.
• Video calls can be placed and received on any computer with a webcam and Google video chat.
• Users will never miss a ūmi call with video messages.
• Cisco ūmi videos can be created and then shared on Facebook, YouTube, or email.
• Video messages can be checked on on-the-go with a laptop.
• New video message notices arrive via text on a mobile phone.
• From the comfort of the couch, users can pan the room and even zoom in to get up close and personal, or pull back to include the whole family.
• Privacy features like call screening and blocking, and a camera shutter that closes, keep users in control of their privacy.
• Personalize with a unique video greeting, ringtones, and calling favorites.
• The stylish design is a perfect match for the living room and HD television.

Opportunities to see Cisco ūmi
This fall, Cisco will kick off a major marketing campaign that will offer many opportunities for consumers to see the ūmi experience:

• "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will bring people together on the show via Cisco ūmi.
• A national advertising campaign featuring Ellen Page, the star of "Juno" and "Inception," will feature Ellen and her friends using ūmi in their everyday lives.
• A Cisco ūmi mall tour begins Nov. 10 and travels to more than 20 major malls across the United States, during which consumers will be able to experience live ūmi demonstrations.

Pricing and Availability

Cisco ūmi is scheduled to be available for preorder on Oct. 6 from umi.cisco.com and Oct. 18 from bestbuy.com. It is scheduled to be available to consumers on November 14 in Best Buy/Magnolia Home Theater stores, bestbuy.com and umi.cisco.com for the suggested retail price of $599 with a monthly fee of $24.99 for unlimited ūmi calls, video messaging and video storage.