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back to article Cisco jump-starts home 'telepresence'

Cisco has announced a "tranformational" consumer-level videoconferencing system that it calls Cisco ūmi telepresence. "Ūmi telepresence is about you and me connecting in new ways, right in your living room," Cisco's emerging technologies group headman Martin De Beer told his audience of press and analysts at the system's roll- …

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FAIL

Ummmmi

So I have to pay ~25 a month on top of my ISPs charges to use up my allotted bandwidth?

Whatever.

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FAIL

If we can't do 100% reliable VOIP over consumer broadband...

...we certainly can't do two-way HD video.

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Really?

1. You cannot do 100% reliable whatever over whatever. Such a thing does not exist. Even phone is about 99.9%. The telco voice people love saying 99.95, but that is only the reliability of you hearing a dial tone, not the reliability of placing a call and successfully completing it. And I am not even going to get into the reliability of mobile.

2. VOIP with no network support and only with QoS/Policying on the customer router works perfectly fine in the UK. I have on average a fraction of a second per several hours of call lost to "skips" which is considerably better than mobile (I can get detailed stats off my PBX, just too lazy at the mo). This is on O2 Broadband at present. I have gone through 4 ISPs since I put the first VOIP PBX at my house in 2002, it worked on all. The skips/gaps are slightly more on several other well known ISPs which claim to be cheaper, but you buy what you pay for. In any case, it is simply a matter of knowing how to run it (by the way, most telcos and ISPs do not).

3. You will be surprised how little HD video actually eats. As a part of my day job in a UK Telco I had to hack a quick-n-ugly HD video conf setup for network testing this year. We did not get any vendor kit so I rewrote portions of asterisk, ekiga and integrated IR remotes to it. The result was very similar to what Cisco is showing here and it was all done using consumer kit which one can go and buy from Dabs and Amazon (HP desktop, Nvidia video, Logitech camera and XP MCE remote). The startling thing was that with a modern codec (not the low compression ones like 261 or 263 usually present on vendor kit), on 720p we could not push the bandwidth beyond more than 2-3Mb for a video conf. Our aim was to have a real app to load the network with 8M. HD video conf done _PROPERLY_ with a modern codec simply was not doing it. It was refusing to eat the bandwidth. In a video conf setup you got people sitting in front of each screen and there is very little motion. There is also a fairly large static background and no movie-style panning/zooming. As a result even less efficient codecs like theora can compress the hell out of the stream. In fact if you drop 720 to 25fps and configure it to do some frame weaning you can fit in 1MBit. That is something you can run on most DSL2+ networks in the UK as long as you have a VOIP PBX with video support in the network and both sides support a modern high compression codec - Theora, MPEG or H264.

As the saying goes: Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.

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Consumers?

If they think consumers will pay $599 and then $25/month for this they're smoking something illegal. I can see a market in SOHO (small offices and home offices) but consumers aren't going to buy into that. If it's $99 and then pay per use it could take off. At those prices, it's a small business thing but not consumer. Who's going to buy this when they can just use FaceTime on their iPhone?

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Anonymous Coward

Sounds like standard cisco pricing to me

Of course if you pay /list/ to cisco, you're out of your mind. Or at least, moreso than if you manage to squeeze a nice reduction out of the salesrep and still buy cisco. But they're still in business.

What you're looking at is positioned in the high end. Only lunatic fringe consumers would pay for that sort of thing. You know, CEOs or financials with obscene bonuses still not paying for it themselves but expensing this "consumer" kit for showing off how totally connected they are. The monthly fee is just icing on top. That gets expensed too, and might end up forgotten in administration and therefore will remain paid up far beyond the lifetime of the device.

Watch for the cheaper linksys branded version, that's when cisco thinks there's actually a market for this. It'll probably be launched somewhere after the huawei knockoff, just so they can undercut them. It might be almost the same hardware in a diffent box with some features turned off, at least for version 1.0; later versions will be crippled with half the memory and only barely do the thing. Though the real kicker here is reliable bandwidth. Apparently cisco thinks there's enough of that in the USoA, at least in the target demographic, to make punting this worthwhile.

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Thumb Down

Competition for LifeSize

I see this more as a competitor to LifeSize's Passport, which does only $720p and currently goes for $2k, but can do Skype video calls as well as H.323/SIP, is smaller, and doesn't require you to pay a pizzo. Either way, people aren't going to pay for HD video calls when free webcam video calls are "good enough," same as how MP3s, pirated DVDs, fast food, and Coors Light are "good enough."

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Grenade

A Jetsons future

One aspect of video-telephony tech for the home that never seems to be mentioned by anyone is the housekeeping problem. You wouldn't want to set this up in a room you actually use for normal living - unless your particular OCD happens to be "compulsive neatnick". As for the rest of us, most of the time the place would be too cluttered to answer incoming calls. To avoid panic attacks when the TP system rings, you'd want to install it in a separate room, one which is normally kept closed off when not in use - a museum quality room, if you will. Think about it it, do you really want anyone who calls to find out how you really live?

Yeah. I thought so.

OTOH, there's an upside, at least here in the US, where every broadband provider does asymmetrical provisioning, with downlink speeds ranging anywhere from 2 mbits/sec to 10 mbits/sec or more, but never more than 768 kbits/sec on the uplink, with most services unwilling to provide more than 512 kbits/sec., unless you're willing to buy their "business class service" at at least double the price.

It would seem higher speed home service uplink services from Verizon would put a bit of pressure on some of the other providers, notably cable cos. like Comcast and TWC which already have the "last mile" infrastructure in place to handle much higher uplink speeds than they provide today. Verizon continues to catch up though with an ongoing build out of its own fibre network to the home.

Cisco might be wise to exert some effort on some of these other providers. I'm not convinced the cable cos. are entirely awake to the fact that today's relatively slow broadband uplink speeds are actually a choke point for development and adoption of new services.

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Megaphone

You want symmetry? We got it ... municipal broadband!

Lafayette, Louisiana, USA: up to 100 megabits symmetrical, residential and business, with 100 megabits host-to-host within the network no matter which class of service you choose.

Is it great? Yes, yes it is.

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Bronze badge

Utterly out-of-touch, incompetent management - CSCO: Sell

Seriously: WTF are these lunatics are smoking? 2x $600 box + $25/mo for getting rid of two Skype-capable devices which work FREE?

FYI clueless CSCO management: I've used D-Link's DVC-1000 then i2eye from 2003-2004 for years across continents FOR FREE. Yes, FREE - and the box was only ~$100 if I remember correctly and guess what? Even my retired parents decided to switch to a laptop and use Skype...

...did I mention video calling is an everyday feature on overseas mobile networks overseas for years - and it seems finally US might catch up in 2011 with 2005's European and Asian GSM networks, offering video calls soooo great planning, CSCO, great effin' planning, dumbos.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Or, to put it another way:

"We think we've saturated the (very small) corporate market for video conferencing, where can we go next? Quick, invent some cool-sounding words!"

I mean, what the fuck does this even mean?

"Very, very soon you are going to see us virtualize services into the home — just like e-commerce virtualized with the advent of the browser — in ways that will enable the delivery of healthcare, education, government services," he said.

Dude, it's a web cam for the TV. Get over yourself.

GJC

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Silver badge
Big Brother

Well, you gotta love the "governement services" part

You can be asked in a deep baritone whether you ever have or currently are providing material support to terrorists.

Then the SWAT team comes...

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FAIL

Or alternativly...

you can set up your own, with a HD camcorder and a free SIP V/C (or messenger service)system.

Cost to set up up, about £100 (for camcorder).

Price per month £F/A

Oh and that unit will fall of the top of my TV, the Wii bar has to be blu-tack'd on.

I'll put it in the pile next to the Amstrad Emailer phone.

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Silver badge

Or if you wanted to do it the easy way

Then you'd get an XBox and MS's Kinect controller.

Actually, I still don't know why MS aren't pushing this aspect. Linking your living room with that of your brother in Australia on Christmas Day sounds like a big seller to me.

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I've used Cisco's previous "Telepresence" gear

It's actually rather good. It is (was?) boardroom-class stuff, shaped sound with gigantic screens and gigantic bandwidth requirements. Low latency and excellent QOS.

BTW, the back-story to Cisco's push in to video, which has been going on for some time now, is that Cisco need to force up the volume of data transmitted in order to complement (push) their core networking equipment business.

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LOL...

Ha ha - Cisco doing consumer kit... nice one...

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WTF?

Hmm

Quote:

"It's like chocolate," De Beer said. "If you haven't seen it, if you haven't experienced it, it's just so tough for me to tell you what it's like — you've got to taste it yourself."

I have a t work, I seen it, experienced it and tasted it. I hate it, like heck is video conferencing coming in my home anytime soon.

Chocolate has the same status at the moment as the Wifes on a diet.

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FAIL

How transformational

I would say about 13.5% transformational. Nice idea but so expensive?

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Silver badge
FAIL

More reliable than Link-Sys? Why always a strange shape, Cisco?

Cisco might be able to make routers, etc. but if this domestic version is anything like their domestic LinkSys with all the software hassles even the Panasonic gear mentioned elsewhere today would be better. And cheaper.

And what's with the physical shapes? Cisco is a pain in the a*se when it comes to rack mounting their equipment as it is always off-square. This latest Cisco concept would be hard to 'stack' as well.

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Compression

The latest Polycom kit will happily do full HD (well 720p) across 512k of bandwidth

Also anyone worried about Cisco doing VC kit, don't worry, it's all Polycom kit with the badge swapped over :)

(Cisco is at once Polycom's biggest compettitor, and customer, apparently...)

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Anonymous Coward

Huh? Reality injection!

Oh please....

Do you really think Cisco would use Polycom kit when they just spent $3.3 billion on the company that was kicking Polycom's ass in the video conferencing business (Tandberg)?

If Cisco is Polycom's biggest customer then I feel VERY VERY sorry for Polycom - because they are clearly not making any sales!

Oh yeah - and I have played with Polycom's H.264 High Profile implementation and it just doesn't measure up to the claims. Yeah, you can get 720p resolution at 512k, but not at anywhere near 24 fps (minimum to be called HD) when there's a little bit of motion in the image.

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The problem isn't so much the reliability

Whilst I deal with IP VC across multiple regions over our own internal network (well...MPLS etc)

I find the quality and reliability to be pretty good and the problem isn't so much the reliability...but more the fact that the average Jo (or at least I do), need a few hours with a make-up artist before sitting before a HD VC Bridge as these things really aren't as forgiving as our old regular res running over a couple of flakey ISDN's type kit. :(

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Anonymous Coward

Tried to change the light?

Or see if there's a way to calibrate white balance and colour balance. Good kit has that simply because the light does change with location and indoors with type of lights and all that. If not, see if you can't drop the overhead fluorescent tubes for something less eyesearing. And yeah, it does make a difference. Quite a bit.

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Re: Really?

Point taken about 100% reliability - 100% means 'near to 100%' in my daily vocabulary.

"VOIP with no network support and only with QoS/Policying on the customer router works perfectly fine in the UK."

In my experience it certainly isn't nearly as good as PSTN, even on 'business grade' connections. You need an uncontended line to get it to work properly at anything close to that 99% figure, and you definitely need router QoS, which is beyond what most consumers have. Contention ratios on all consumer services provide no minimum service level and so any free VOIP codec is going to stutter at some periods of the day.

How you then scale that up to the required 1Mbit upstream for lossy HD video (again, beyond *even the MOST optimistic* capabilities of all but a fraction of asynchronous consumer broadband connections, when contention is at the 1:1 level) is totally beyond me. It also requires your ISP to not throttle your speeds when you're at your maximum upload threshold - something I've not yet experienced myself.

For businesses with SDSL upwards, it could be useful, but it will just not work for all but a tiny percentage of consumers.

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FAIL

ISPs

Aren't the ISPs already moaning like hell about the uptake of YouTube?

This won't work well for rather a long time. (like, when we can pay by the MB with QoS bands)

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Why the monthly charge?

I was moderately interested right up until the monthly charge part. WTF is that about? What am I getting for my $25/mo? The right to give you more money? A listing in your directory so other people can find me? Uh, I think some other services already do that for free.

Maybe you're going to get Comcast to bump up my upload speeds so your gear actually works? Doubt it.

The monthly charge just looks like a way for Cisco to get their gear from being "are they out of their minds" expensive to merely overpriced. No thanks.

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Paris Hilton

Wanker Vision

Tele-Wanker?

Oh wait they already have webcams for that - probably don't want to see the person on the other side in all their 1080p glory...

Paris coz...well...why not?

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