Columnist David Pogue in a New York Time article reviewing Skype 4.0 starts with the AT&T video phone demonstrated at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and user experience from then. Not a lot of calls due to technical and psychological issues. He talks about why Skype has been so widely accepted (did he remind us it was “free”?) and why Skype has been a survivor when up against iChat, MSN Messenger, SightSpeed and others.
He goes on to mention several issues that have inhibited video calling in the past but then says:
The video quality still varies when you use Skype. Fast Internet connections and fast computers still work better than slow ones. But if you do have a good setup — wow. With certain Logitech or Philips webcam models, Skype 4.0 can deliver a picture that’s as big and sharp and smooth as a TV picture (30 frames a second, 640 by 480 pixels), with almost no delay.
In my test calls to friends in California, New York and Virginia, we were amazed at what a difference it makes when the delay goes away. (Maybe, for its next trick, Skype can lend its technology to the world’s cellphone carriers.)
He then went on to make calls using iChat, ooVoo and SightSpeed: “None of them matched Skype’s immediacy or video and audio quality.” He discusses Skype’s new level of audio quality (with the SILK codec) and reduced network bandwidth speed requirement. He mentions some features that he would still like to see and mentions what differentiates services such as SightSpeed. His closing comment places Skype video calling into a historical perspective:
….. Will we one day adjust to the idea of being on camera every time someone calls?
In the end, video chatting isn’t a replacement for phone calls, but a supplement to them, a perfect way to check out someone’s new place, check in with distant family and friends or show off a new talent (or baby). They saw the possibilities back in 1964 — they just didn’t realize that we wouldn’t always want to use them.
Go read David’s post (free registration may be required); it’s an excellent yet objective review of the personal video calling space from the end user perspective. I guess David doesn’t watch Oprah; she seems to be using Skype High Quality Video almost daily according to reports from my wife.
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