Psst. Come over here. I have a copy of this week’s Village Voice newspaper that I’d like to sell you for just $25. What? “It’s free,” you say? Well, my version has slightly sharper print so I’m sure you and millions of others will be more than willing to pay my premium.
Cisco applied this perverse logic to its 2010-era umi home telepresence system, which cost an eye-popping $599 for equipment plus $24.99 a month to provide a slightly better video chat service than competitors like Skype and Google offered for free. With the umi, which was short for You / Me, you could hook up a camera to the top of your TV and either talk to one of the five other umi users -- or with your friends on Google Talk who were paying nothing at all.