Mark your calendars. Today - October 6, 2010 - appears to be the day that video calling took a turn into the mainstream.
This morning, at a press event in San Francisco, Cisco unveiled Umi, a telepresence product for the home. Hours later, at another press event just a few blocks away, Logitech introduced a video calling feature as part of its Google TV offerings.
Gallery: Logitech Revue with Google TV
The two offerings are remarkably similar and really bring that Jetsons-like experience out of the cartoons and into reality. And while a second video calling offering in a day was newsworthy, it wasn't the reason that journalists crammed into a hotel meeting room for a Logitech event. We came for details on Google TV.
At the event, Logitech introduced the Revue, a $300 set-top box that will unleash Web content on the television. Out of the box, the product comes with a nearly full-size keyboard for typing in Google TV searches - and almost immediately, I started rethinking a Google TV setup for my own living room.
For some time now, I've argued that bringing the Web - in terms of content - to the living room HDTV is a good thing but that bringing a computer into a living room (as part of the TV experience) is a bad idea.
Companies from Sony to HP to Microsoft have been talking about that for years, but it's never taken off. Along comes Google and Logitech to do things differently - but then they bust out with a full-size keyboard that's supposed to find a place next to the remote control. When I saw that keyboard, one word came to my mind:
But then the Logitech guys started demonstrating the "Harmony" technology that it has built into its advanced remote controls and showed how that technology - which allows a single device to take control over the set itself, as well as the other components connected to it - works in an Android smartphone.
Ah-ha! That was more like it. I usually have the remote control and my phone sitting next to me when I'm watching TV so I was happy to see that the companies had come up with a way to build remote control functionality into a device that I'm already carrying around.
The company also introduced a mini-keyboard, which looked a bit like a large bulky smartphone. It's priced at $130. And the special TV camera that unleashes the video calling feature runs $150.
Today's event was more about Logitech's role in the GoogleTV rollout so, beyond another demo of Google TV, the focus really less about Google and more about Logitech.
The Logitech Revue is available for pre-order today on the Logitech web site and the company said the products will be available in the coming weeks.