Cisco predicts that by the year 2014 no less than 90% of all internet traffic will be video related and they certainly want a larger piece of that action. Through acquisitions of companies over the years like Flip Video, Linksys, and Umi they are hoping to make a major play for screen time on basically every electronic device you own.
At CES Cisco has announced 5 major product families designed to work in tandem to give you total control over your video content at all times on most devices. These product families include: Media Suite, Media Gateway, IP Set Top Box, Software Clients, and Conductor. These five families are merged under one roof, henceforth to be known as Videoscape. If you’re confused as to Cisco’s intentions for this technology go rent, buy or borrow the movie “Antitrust” and take note of the bit of fictitious technology called “Synapse” that the movie revolves around, copy, paste, and slap a Cisco logo on it and there you go.
During the keynote a demonstration of their system was given using a Umi enabled television, hooked up to all the media gateway tech they are introducing. We were treated to some canned back and forth between Cisco CEO John Chambers and “Cousin Kenny,” an eccentric West Virginia basketball fan. First a standard video conference took place interrupting a basketball game our presenters were watching. Then a flip video camera was busted out to record some live hoops trash talk directed at Cousin Kenny submitted through the Videoscape system in such a way that Cousin Kenny could instantly watch the message once it was processed (a matter of seconds… though it was running on a canned presentation system so actual mileage in real-world scenarios will vary.) Moments later Cousin Kenny posted a cornball response which instantly appeared on the TV queue for our viewing/cringing pleasure. Kind of cool if the bandwidth is in place to support this shuffle of videos.
Note: Banjo music not included.
Cisco is trying to make video calling the new “killer-app” of the near future and roughly 75% of what they released today is actually software designed for all sorts of platforms to bring it all together. Seamless video calls and video consumption from mobile devices to your TV, PC, or an Android/iDevice appears to be the ultimate goal.
The problem we see is not one of the technology, we can video chat from cell phones and TV based systems already, tying it all together is simply the next logical step, but rather mass adoption of video calling in general. It is a fun novelty to be sure, but in reality there are not many circumstances in which consumers stand to benefit from ubiquitous video calling. Voice-only is simply the best way to do things in many, perhaps most cases, but if Cisco gets its way it may soon be a “no shirt, no shoes, no pants, no call” kind of world. S|A