The ubiquity of good, low-power wireless networking was the holdup. Our phones and tablets have finally brought this about.
First the robots appear as a toy to watch your pets from work, then you personal assistant pops in twice a day from India/Africa/(low wage outsource of the moment), and finally Siri rolls around your house picking up your socks (and informing the NSA if your feet smell at all terrorist-like).
Welcoming robot overlords and all that 20th century slashdot yap...
They offer two advantages over video on a tablet-
1) Height, and therefore a certain kind of sense of presence that might be useful in a business setting. It makes you a bit more a part of a meeting than a speakerphone on a desk, or even a tablet on a desk. Harder to ignore or overlook.
2) Mobility. Useful in office settings, certainly. Useful for a doctor making rounds, that kind of thing. Less useful in a home, and currently stairs of any kind would be a showstopper. As would doors (which could be automated in an office/hospital/etc, but not likely in a home).
For more intimate contact with family, though, it seems to me a tablet is far superior. They can be held and moved by the person on each end, and held closer as well. Plus they just seem more personal.
Telepresence Robots seem useful for cases where you want a sense of personal space around your video image. Tablets seem more useful for when you explicitly don't.
Maybe they should add a wireless charger to the package. When the batteries get down to 10%, the unit automatically wheels back to the charging station.
Now, if there's a sleeping dog in the way, or a box or something, then the robot's out of luck, but otherwise it just takes care of itself, like a person going to the toilet once in a while.
The other obvious thing the product needs is a robotic arm. So useful. Obviously, bringing the medicine to a bedbound patient springs to mind, but the uses are really unlimited.
This 50% subsidized pricing on a new product tells me the race has already begun.