Cisco may call home TelePresence 'UMI'

The company has applied for a trademark on the name, hinting at a consumer videoconferencing system

Cisco Systems may be planning to give its consumer TelePresence system the friendly sounding name "UMI," according to a trademark application made last year.

On Dec. 21, 2009, Cisco filed a registration form to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the name "CISCO UMI," according to a page on the trademark search site Trademarkia. In its application, the company listed several descriptors, including "telecommunications hardware and software," "video conferencing hardware and software" and "consumer electronics."

The application apparently has not yet been issued, as its status is listed as a "non-final action." The Trademarkia page lists an "estimated response deadline" of Sept. 29, 2010.

Virtually ever since the introduction of its TelePresence high-definition videoconferencing system for enterprises in 2006, Cisco has talked about extending the technology to homes. At the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, Chairman and CEO John Chambers demonstrated a home system for the first time and announced trials by Verizon and France Telecom this year. The demonstration showed a system using an existing HDTV, a set-top box, a microphone and an HD camera that was mounted on top of the TV. It's likely that home TelePresence would also include a service component.

Chambers did not address pricing or availability at CES. In 2007, he said TelePresence might come to the home in two or three years for about US$1,000 -- a small fraction of what Cisco charges for its business-oriented TelePresence systems, but still a sizable pricetag for a home product.

The UMI name, which might be pronounced "you-me," would fit well with the personal communication applications Cisco has emphasized in promoting its future consumer offering. One of Chambers' favorite pitches on stage asks the audience to imagine watching a sporting event while also engaging in a TelePresence session with a friend or relative, discussing the game. However, Cisco also envisions more serious uses such as virtual house calls by physicians.

Cisco doesn't own the umi.com domain name -- at least, not yet. That URL belongs to ProQuest LLC, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which uses it for its UMI dissertation publishing division. The domain name registration expires on Aug. 13.

Cisco representatives could not be reached to comment on the application.

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