Related link: http://www.apple.com/isight
Unless you’re a Yahoo! chatter or involved in some of the shadier corners of the web, you’ve probably not had the chance to use a webcam. While plenty of webcams are available on the market as well as plenty of cam software, the technology never seemed to really take off. People have found the technology too difficult for what it’s worth. First there’s choosing the right cam, which can be hard with the large variety. Then, you have to take the cam home and struggle with installing the various drivers, applications, and other goodies that come with the cam.
Then, you have to find someone to talk to. Someone who also has a cam _and_ the same cam software you do. Sure most Windows machines ship with Netmeeting these days, but Netmeeting is hardly an easy application to use for the novice. It’s difficult to get connected to other users with most cam software.
It’s no secret that until recently, there wasn’t much webcam support for the Mac. Sure the cams come in FireWire and USB, both standards present on the Mac, but there’s been a definite lack of drivers. Previously, I was using the macam driver for my Logitech QuickCam. The other two webcams I own (a Creative Webcam2Go and some generic one) wouldn’t work at all. Unfortunate, because their resolutions are higher.
For webcam software, we had Yahoo! Messenger for communication… and that’s really about it. Sure you could use something like EvoCam to take pictures of yourself and post them somewhere, but it’s not the same as having a real one on one conversation. Speaking of conversation, all the “talking” had to occur through IMs. Yahoo! Messenger can’t do voice/video chat. Some of the pieces of the puzzle were there, but you had to cram them together awkwardly and hope it came out properly.
Enter the iSight. I bought an iSight this past Friday night and I can’t stress enough the greatness of this product. The image quality is crystal clear, due to the help of an auto-focusing lense that has a wider viewing angle than most other webcams. The new version of iChat has video and voice conferencing built in, and it’s as easy to use as sending a text message. It’s no wonder Steve Jobs is stressing that this is video conferencing for “the rest of us.” I don’t know who the other people are, but they should join the rest of us too. This is the easiest method of video conferencing I’ve seen yet. Mount the iSight on your Mac, plug it into your FireWire port and start chatting. There are no drivers to install. No hassle of finding a piece of software to communicate. All of your buddies that have a Mac and the new iChat beta can have voice and video chats with you with the click of a button.
However, like most things, there are some drawbacks. Right now, the person you’re trying to talk to needs to have iChat. The AOL AIM clients don’t yet support the same voice/video conferencing standards that iChat does. There’s something for you: standards. iChatAV uses: SIP, RTP, and Quicktime to deliver voice using QCELP and video via the H.263 codec. Now if we could get MSN and Yahoo! and all of the other networks to use these same protocols, we’d all be able to video chat regardless of our software and hardware soon.
I think that’s a hollow hope, however. There is a good chance that AOL will adopt these standards, but I don’t foresee Yahoo! or MSN doing it. These days, IM providers are extremely protective of their protocols. It’s a shame they can’t work together and create a single IM standard that would work with all networks instead of each inventing their own wheel. And realistically, what’s the harm done? SMTP is a standardized protocol for email. There are tons and tons of email clients out there, each with different features and users. If there were a standard IM protocol, I can see the same thing happening. People would gravitate toward the client that they prefer. The fact that a whole crop of apps have been developed for people who use multiple IM services is a true testament to the confusion of the instant messaging landscape.
Can’t we all just get along?
What do you think of the iSight and iChatAV?