Journal: News & Comment

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
# 1:35:00 PM:

Why won't the videophone die?

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Futurists and other people have been predicting the advent of videophones for decades. It never happens, although various usable technologies have also been around for decades. And, as Ryan says, video chat won't succeed wildly either, even if Apple is the latest company to push it.

Think about it. Who are the biggest users of instant messaging? Teenagers. If you've ever watched a teen on IM, you've noticed that she or he might have three or four or seven or ten conversations going on simultaneously, maybe in a chat room, maybe in a single IM session, maybe in multiple windows sprayed across the desktop. Try doing that with video, or even audio. Doesn't work.

Secondly, what makes instant messaging great is that, like a phone or personal conversation, it happens in real time, but like e-mail, you don't have to be constantly on, participating in the exchange at all times, especially when several people are involved. No one is insulted if you take a few extra seconds (or even minutes) to respond in an IM chat, but if they can see you working on something else, or hear you talking to someone else, instead of answering the question, it might be different. Never mind picking your nose or making weird faces when someone disagrees with you.

So, iChat AV: neat, but not earth-shattering. It's nice to have the option of using video and audio, but I suspect most people will give it a pass most of the time, once the novelty wears off.


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