Parks Associates Blog

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Consumer Videoconferencing Takes Center Stage - Cisco's ūmi and Vidyo's Adobe Collaboration

Cisco has made its poorly-kept secret official - it has introduced Cisco ūmi™ telepresence, a consumer videoconferencing product and service. The product (which comes with an HD camera, a console, and a remote control) will cost $599 and there is a $24.99 monthly service. In addition to some high-profile positioning at Best Buy Magnolia Home Theatre stores, Cisco is also spending major marketing dollars in Q4, with positioning on the Oprah Winfrey show, new commercials with Juno star Ellen Page, and a mall tour. Verizon will also distribute ūmi to FiOS customers in early 2011.

There are consumer trends that point to a growing desire by consumers to experience videoconferencing. From our Digital Media Evolution II study this year, 12% of consumers in broadband households are engaged in video chat using Webcams on at least a daily basis. Thanks to the FaceTime feature on the Apple iPhone 4, consumers are becoming more interested in the idea of videoconferencing on the mobile handset. In our recent study Mobile Cloud Media & Access Platforms, 11% of consumers indicate that they are extremely interested in such a feature. From that same study, video chat features are among the most-important to consider as consumers look at buying a tablet computer. The current use of and interest in video chat is most notable among younger consumers, age 18-24.

Despite these underlying trends and drivers, I'm not sure that the world is ready for consumer videoconferencing at the TV. The high cost of equipment and the monthly subscription itself are going to be barriers. Should operators like Verizon aggressively subsidize the cost of the equipment and roll the monthly fee into an existing FiOS subscription, that would certainly be more palatable. From our study TV 2.0: The Consumer Perspective, we know that 24% of consumers in U.S. broadband households find the idea of videoconferencing appealing, but only 5% are willing to pay a fee of up to $5 additional per month.

Better yet, perhaps we'll see the Scientific-Atlanta set-top boxes integrate the videoconferencing capabilities directly into the set-top box, thus reducing the need for a separate console. We are soon going to see products with embedded videoconferencing come in the form of the Logitech Revue, which will support Logitech Vid™, the company's videoconferencing software.

I also think that consumer videoconferencing is going to appeal to very specific niche audiences. In qualitative studies, we've heard mostly concerns about privacy ("Will people see me walking in front of my TV in my bathrobe?"), but we also heard that a high-quality videoconferencing solution would be useful for people who want to keep a closer eye on older/elderly parents who may be living independently. Given Cisco's emphasis on very high-quality video, ūmi could be a good solution to allow people to be able to see the general health of an older parent and provide reminders ("Have you taken your pills today?"). I can also imagine that this solution will be useful for folks living overseas and who want to stay in touch with family here.

Cisco has demonstrated some useful applications with Telepresence that aren't necessarily consumer-related (having Telepresence in an office setting to be able to communicate with a family physician as one example), and I think that's where you'll see more activity in videoconferencing - businesses and healthcare providers in particular looking for ways to reduce or eliminate travel expenses or deliver healthcare more efficiently. I do think that education is an area to watch as well, and that's the gist of today's announcement from Vidyo.

Vidyo announced that it and Adobe will be demonstrating a plug-in that allows users to launch a telepresence-quality Vidyo™ conference within an Adobe® Connect™ session to collaborate with multiple parties. The plug-in will demonstrate the ability to integrate Vidyo and Adobe Connect using Vidyo APIs, and is the result of an ongoing collaboration to offer solutions to the education market.

Vidyo is a videoconferencing solution for a growing number of learning centers, universities and K-12 educators, offering high-quality low-cost options for instructors and administrators. Adobe Connect is a market-leading suite of web conferencing software that allows users to securely share presentations and multimedia from their desktops via the Internet.

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