Cisco and Google Race to Your TV Room

Cisco announces home teleconferencing as Google ramps up Google TV.

The TV room has been the center piece of the American home for decades.  Families have been gathering around the television set ever since Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore shared a bedroom that consisted of two twin-sized beds.

Now, some of Silicon Valley's biggest companies are announcing the next wave of television.  And they are doing it on the very same day.

Long one of the elusive hopes of the tech industry:  The ability to talk to, and watch, each other, from far away at the same time. 

We've seen tele-video offerings from the likes of 8X8, Skype and many others through the years, but Wednesday, a tech giant got into the mix by bringing the whole shebang to your television set.

Cisco is announcing what it calls "Umi."  Teleconferencing for your home, so you can watch your loved ones in high def.  With an HD television, you can use Umi to get together with friends and family; to see and be seen. The $599 box basically turns living-room TV sets into big videophones. Among the early adopters, according to Cisco, will be the "Oprah Winfrey Show," which will communicate with outside guests via Umi.  Until now she has used down and dirty Skype.

Cisco said the umi will be sold at Best Buy starting Nov. 14.

The move is just the latest push to bring technology into your living room.  

Also, as if Apple TV, Hulu, Roku and Orb aren't enough, there's yet another major player knocking on your living room door: Google.  

The search giant, with help from hardware makers Logitech and Sony, is rolling out its Google TV. The television will be a way to search for, and find, TV and movie content -- think networks, NBA, and Netflix -- that will compete directly with the aforementioned companies.

All this competition is good news for those of us who occasionally forget to update our DVRs.  For example, the CNBC app on Google TV will let you check your stocks while you watch the programming.

I've tried Roku, Apple TV, and Orb and I am about to try Google TV.  All are cool, all a little different, all spell big trouble for traditional cable service.  Google is entering a crowded field, but it's used to that, and it's also used to winning. 

Scott sees this as good news for consumers; not so much for cable.  He's updating on Twitter @scottbudman.
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