Cisco’s Vision Of Connectedness

January 20, 2011

2:42 pm

When you hear the name Cisco, what do you think of? Probably routers and the set-top box from your cable company. Most people probably don’t think about sleek product design or innovative products that they would display around their home. But that’s changing.

Their consumer product line is starting to better reflect their slogan, “together we are the human network”. At this year’s CES, I had a chance to spend some time with the team from Cisco in a pseudo home environment (a beautiful suite at the Venetian), where I was able to have a crystal clear, long distance video chat on a high-def television with a woman in Boulder (via the Umi device – pronounced “you-me”), play around with the parent-friendly router systems (the “Valet” series) that are not only attractive, but easy to use to manage online access for various household members, and other products, like the beautiful array of Flip cameras and their living room center-piece, the Cisco Videoscape.

The Videoscape is Cisco’s smart TV solution, but it’s unique from other offerings because of Cisco’s relationships with the cable companies. It brings together content from pay TV, online, and on-demand sources, combining content with social media, communications and mobility to create an immersive experience. All built into your cable box. The goal is to be completely interoperable across your devices, with the power of pay-tv brought to all of them. Because it’s so deeply integrated with the cable companies, the quality and offerings are impressive. But the benefit is also it’s greatest weakness – because you can’t go out and buy it. Instead you have to wait for your cable provider to offer it in your area. And those deals may take a while (the first is with Australian telco, Telstra).

Watch the demo here:

The Umi was also gorgeous – truly transforming televisions into a family connection vehicle. The quality and seemless integration are compelling, but I’m afraid it’s hefty pricetag will prevent it from catching on as quickly as their lower-quality competitors.

It’s a fascinating product mix. Ultra-easy to use, family friendly products like the affordable flip cameras and routers, mixed with the highly desirable, but pricey Umi sytstem and the soon-to-be rolled out Videoscape. All of the products seem to have integration and connectivity in mind – even the Flips are now designed to work with televisions using FlipShare TV. And no longer is the computer central to this connectivity. If Cisco has it their way, the network itself will be the nucleus, with your television, mobile devices (Flip cam included) and computers all networked, together.

View photos from the Cisco event at CES:

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Jen Consalvo is the Cofounder and COO of Tech.Co. She previously worked in product development for almost 13 years at AOL for audiences of millions. Follow her on Twitter at: @noreaster.

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