Wednesday 7 July 2010

2010 - A face Odyssey

Well, I can't take credit for the witty title of this post ... it echoes the title of the article written in today's Independent Newspaper by Rhodri Marsden, which included an interview with me. The feature discusses why finally video calls may take off for the consumer after so many years of promise.

Of course the sub-editor of the newspaper got their turn at changing what I said to Rhodri during the interview, but hey .. I knew what I meant at the time ... and that is the perogative of editors! Essentially I was talking about the E word .. Experience ... it is all about the experience the user gets, something I would expect Apple to excel at compared to the various phone companies that have tried this before.

First the network bandwidth on a mobile combined with compression techniques now makes a good video call experience possible. But by experience I mean much more than this. Point and press to initiate calls, just as easily as a normal phone call, with no extra account to set up (as with many pc based messenger type video calls including Yahoo, MSN & Skype), is also important. A video call requires two ends ... and two end devices equally capable of live video without the processor ruining your device's battery life. For success it will require tens/hundreds of millions of devices which have the capability. Apple will have this with iPhone 4's and its successor, iPads (the next incarnation) and iPod Touches of the future. A great video call experience also requires a great blend of hardware (camera, processor etc) and software (codecs, user interface) and Apple have both.

Finally its about the business model. How do you charge for video calls? For consumers, it is by no means essential for a call, and so it has to be very very cheap or probably free. What carrier or communications company is going to offer the service for free? In the past, they have tried in the fixed video call space and not only required you to pay over the odds for the devices but also for the calls ... they just don't get it. Conversely, Apple, a company that makes desirable mobile devices, would. This will be another essential tick in the box for the consumer experience ... no extra cost over WiFi. By the time it is popular with consumers, mobile carriers who want to participate to get some of the traffic on their faster LTE and other 4G cellular networks won't be able to charge much for it either.

It may take a little beyond the end of 2010 for all these things I have mentioned to happen, but 2011 may finally be a facetime odyssey!

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