iChat, Video Conferencing, and My Living Room

Video conferencing was and still is an enterprise play. As a technology it has many business applications, especially cutting traveling costs.

However something is missing. First of all, setting up a video conference call is still a pain. Both sides need to coordinate IP addresses, and know what type of equipment is being used by the parties. Second, it is not clear that video conference is the preferred communication method by most people. it seems that the need to, well, look good while conducting a call stopped many business users from further utilizing this application.

There are many great resources for Enterprise video conferencing equipment. However, consumer video conferencing is a different domain.

When Skype lunched their video conferencing capability, it was a nice to have feature. For me, the quality was not good enough. But using it to talk and see overseas friends made sense, as quality was not a major consideration for me.

But now I have a Mac, with its built-in camera and iChat client. A lot of my friends have Macs too (yes, partly due to my nagging mixed with infantile enthusiasm from my Macbook Pro). The video quality is much better than Skype in most cases, and the usage is as simple as it can be – just press the little video cam button on iChat and you are up and running. I can honestly say, that I’ve switched at least 50% of my communication with other Mac users to video conferencing, due to ease of use and high quality.

Yesterday I showed my business partners a transatlantic video conferencing session with Carl Ford, located in New Jersey. The quality was great, and the result was pretty impressive. Both the call and the “equipment” were free.

So what can we learn from this story?

1. Video conferencing has a wide consumer appeal.

2. Just like any other product – usability and quality are the basics. Without them, don’t expect market adoption.

3. Well… Buy a Mac 🙂

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10 Responses to “iChat, Video Conferencing, and My Living Room”


  1. 1 Yuval Adam May 5, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Have you started getting commissions from the Israeli Mac representatives yet?
    Coming from a company that invested a lot in international sales, it was very interesting to see that even though the technology exists, it seemed completely impossible for our sales people to do these meetings online. It felt imperative for our managers to be there in person. Apparently the percent of closed deals is just not the same without the personal meeting.
    The best story I heard was about this company that soled high end video conference tools, and sent all it’s sales reps abroad by planes…

  2. 2 Phil May 7, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I’ve tried several “Third Party” conferencing solutions and iChat blows away these other programs. The video and connection quality is so much better. Why is that? Is it using a port that’s more conducive to video while others use port 80?

    Just curious.

  3. 3 Kate Carruthers May 8, 2008 at 11:28 am

    You are right about the consumer desire for this technology, but only if it is easy and it works. I love it and could not run my business without it.

  4. 4 Robot55 May 22, 2008 at 8:50 am

    iChat is an extremely powerful video chat client – no doubt.

    However, unlike you – I haven’t converted all my surroundings to PC users.
    Moreover, many of my Mac using friends refuse to cough up the 100$ for a .Mac account.

    the only other option to use iChat is with an AOL account – which is also annoying for new mac users who already use other chat clients –

    Seems to me the iChat connectivity is very limited – and apparently just for biz reaosns, not tech.

    There shouldn’t be a problem to use iChat with GTalk, for instance as they’re both Bonjour based –

    There is actually a hack you can apply to your Leopard which allows this – but it’s a bit complicated to carry out – plus it kinds of messes up the contact list display (adding useless “.bonjour” or “.gtalk” strings to your list, which stay there once you move to another chat)

    To conclude – while I agree with all your points regarding the robustness of iChat – Apple couldv’e invested a bit more in integrating it to the existing chat-o-sphere.

    Nobody migrates form PC to MAC together with 50 of his closest friends.. They should’ve provided a more accesible out-of-the-box solution in my opinion.

    (I get tire dof the Adium duck already 😛 )

  5. 5 Duane Johnson August 11, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    I use tokbox.com because it lets me reach out to non-mac users. It also does free video conferencing at this point.

  6. 6 Kfir Pravda August 12, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Duane – just checked it – pretty neat…

  7. 7 Alan Abbey September 18, 2008 at 8:32 am

    We have been looking for a live, online video solution for our distance learning. For now, we are planning to use one of the live broadcasters – ustream.tv seems to work the best; justin.tv crashed on us during an 11 a.m. EDT/8 am PDT/6 pm Israel time event.

    Is tokbox conducive to multiple parties online with cameras at once? I will check it out. Thanks.

  8. 8 Steve Wertman September 18, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    That’s odd, we’ve actually found in our testing that justin.tv works the best and goes down the least often. They also seem to have the most features and widest existing audience. I’d recommend giving them another shot if you haven’t already — just my 2 cents 🙂


  1. 1 iPhone 3G video calls will be done over 3G-324M or SIP? | VoIP Survivor Trackback on May 26, 2008 at 11:25 am
  2. 2 Will the iPhone do for video conferencing, what it has done for mobile web browsing? | Video over Enterprise Trackback on June 17, 2008 at 10:33 am

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