Kara Swisher

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Cisco to Unveil an Affordable Home TelePresence Product for Consumers Next Week

Cisco, the networking giant, is making yet another big step into the consumer space, with the introduction next week of an inexpensive home telepresence product for personal use.

Consumer or Home TelePresence, sources said, might be launched with Comcast (CMCSK) and Verizon (VZ). It is not clear if AT&T is involved.

The cost for a small unit could be as low as $200, but that price would be heavily subsidized. Another source said a $500 price point was also possible with fewer hooks.

The big selling point: The high-definition quality is supposed to be very good. Cisco (CSCO) will use this selling point to contrast it to what will be its big competitor: Internet telephony and video-calling giant Skype.

With it, presumably, people can interact in front of a television set with distant relatives and friends.

Cisco already has a big telepresence business aimed at the corporate meeting market.

But its deployment is complex and requires expensive installation of large pieces of equipment.

Notes Cisco’s Web site:

With Cisco TelePresence:

Scheduling is easy–no IT support required
Launching a meeting is as simple as making a phone call.
In-room controls are intuitive–collaboration applications are plug and play
Participants can meet in many rooms at once-up to 48 locations in one meeting
Users can easily bring in collaboration applications like Cisco WebEx Meeting Center
Existing SD or HD videoconferencing systems can be easily integrated.

Yesterday, BoomTown reported that Cisco will be holding a press event next Wednesday morning in San Francisco.

The invite reads: “Come see a new Cisco consumer experience at an exclusive media event, hosted by Chairman and CEO John Chambers.”

As I wrote, reflecting speculation: “What could the new consumer product be?

Perhaps Cisco has built its own version of Apple (AAPL) TV. Or perhaps a consumer-aimed home version of telepresence?”

It turns out Door #2 was right!

This is all part of Cisco’s ongoing attempt to push into the consumer space, offering a variety of products.

Cisco’s PR spokesperson declined to comment.