The next version of iChat, iChat AV and a new Apple digital camera, the iSight, were unveiled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs today during his Worldwide Developers Conference keynote address.
"iChat AV goes beyond text chatting and adds audio chats and video chats over the Internet," Jobs said. "It's videoconferencing for the rest of us and is one of the coolest things we've ever done."
iChat AV isn't finished, but a public beta version is available now, and will work with Mac OS X 10.2 ("Jaguar") and higher. The beta will expire Dec. 31. The US$149 iSight camera is on sale today.
The new products will enable video conferences between two Mac users over any broadband connection. iChat AV audio conferences will work over dial-up connections to the Internet, as well.
The update of the conferencing i-app requires no set up or configuration beyond installing the software and plugging in any FireWire video camera and microphone, Jobs said. Buddies with audio or video conferencing capability automatically show up in your buddy list.
"There's zero set-up and configuration," the CEO said. "You don't need to know phone numbers or IP addresses for it to work, you just need your buddy names. iChat AV is location independent; it automatically tells the instant messaging service where you are. You can get a free AOL buddy name, a .Mac buddy game, or connect via Rendezvous on an ad hoc basis."
iChat AV works with any FireWire video camera or even a camcorder, but Apple is hoping you'll be seduced by their iSight digital video camera, which has a built-in, dual-element noise-suppressing microphone, as well as a custom designed lens with auto-focus and a high-end CCD sensor to provide high- resolution images and full-motion video at up to 30 frames per second. With its on-board processor, iSight automatically adjusts color, white balance, sharpness and contrast.
What's more, the camera is designed to be center-mounted on the top of any computer screen and uses its integrated tilt and rotate mechanism to position the camera for natural, face-to-face video conferencing, providing an "emotional connection" between those communicating. All audio, video, and power provided by a single FireWire cable.
Jobs demonstrated the video and audio capabilities of iChat AV and the iSight by chatting with Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide product marketing; Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States and current Apple board member; and a friend in Paris, France.
This story, "WWDC: Apple rolls out iChat AV, iSight" was originally published by PCWorld.