“I can see it, see it, see it; you’ve got yourself together.”
— “I Can’t Believe It” by The Rolling Stones
I swear it’s true! This week’s column was going to suggest that Apple should release its iChat AV software for Windows and make its iSight Webcam/mike available to the huge audience of PC users.
Instead, Apple stole my thunder by joining with AOL this morning (Thursday) to announce that they’ve upgraded their instant messaging applications (iChat AV and AIM, respectively) to enable Mac and PC users to share video conferencing sessions over the Web. (As long as the PC users are AOL members, that is.)
As I struggled to overcome my chagrin at the announcement’s timing, I grumbled that my idea would have been a stronger move for the company, because it would have helped Apple sell some computers and iSights to potential switchers. But after calming down, I’m now convinced that Apple’s — and Mac users’ — interests are better served by its decision.
It’s pretty simple, really. It boils down to numbers, standards, and fading into the woodwork.
Apple might have sold a few more boxes and devices, but it’s hard to combat the fact that there are already a bazillion PCs in the world that need only a $30 USB Webcam (and maybe a $20 mike) in order to do video conferencing. And sure, there are some “high-priced” FireWire Webcams (between $80-$100) that work on either platform, but even quality-conscious buyers might balk at an additional $50 premium for the iSight. (It’s true, though, that none of these other guys are as elegant, but you might want to read Macworld magazine’s
to see how these devices rate.)
So Apple instead chose to offer Mac users access to AOL’s 50 million users, a group that sends nearly two billion instant messages every day, according to Jim Dalrymple’s
report for MacCentral. Even I couldn’t argue with those numbers. As industry analyst Tim Deal told Jim, the move “(pulls) Apple further from its niche position in the market. Live video instant messaging will grow in popularity and become relatively common over the next few years, and Apple is poised to benefit substantially from its integration with the AIM network.”
And because iChat AV is built on, and able to take advantage of, standards-based technology, it will scale nicely to multi-party connections, “the next big thing” in video conferencing. So you on the road, your spouse at home, and your parents in Phoenix will be able to share face-time simultaneously. And perhaps more importantly, you’ll be able to do the same with members of your work team, which means your choice of computer platform will become less of an issue at your office — you’ll be just another face at the table. Something we as Mac users can all look forward to.
iChat AV, AIM updates add Mac to PC video conferencing
Apple and America Online on Thursday announced the release of software updates that will enable users of the companies’ instant messaging applications to employ video conferencing between Macs and PCs. The updates, iChat AV Public Beta 2.1 for Macs and AIM 5.5 for Windows-based computer, are available immediately.
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