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Video Calls on the move.. lots of choices many questions.

The idea of the video phone has been around for a very long time. I remember attending a phone conference in the 90’s when it was the next big thing. However it has never really taken off.. maybe until now?

Historically there have been many arguments why the video conference woultn’t take off and the best i’ve ever heard was that you can’t make a sick call to work over a video phone. However realistically the problem has been the lack of a standard world wide.

And this needs to be much like the normal telephone a world wide standard having anything country based in todays global marketplace just doesn’t work.  There was always the problem of bandwidth because video takes more of it than audio and breaks up pretty bad if the bandwidth isn’t provided constant Quality of Service (QoS)..

It turns out however what just didn’t take off with the fixed line device for whatever reason now has the potential to take off in the mobile tablet world. It’s a race to be the “standard” well the de-facto one at least.

There are many competing systems rising and arising right now from the established commercial and grandparent name of Skype who even having been purchased by Microsoft seem to at the moment at least be doing a great job of keeping their brand identity and providing a great selection of cross platform clients.

Then we have Apple’s Facetime built into the IOS devices as default and been available on Mac’s since Lion it’s an Applecentric system however at the moment hindered on mobile devices becuase it’s wifi only, however IOS6 is supposed to go truly mobile

Other players in the arena include the Google Hangout’s system with it’s IOS app and Android app making it again an ideal mobile platform and not to be out done Facebook has linked itself with Skype. Then there is Oovoo with Apps on all the platforms and these are just the mainstream players there are many web based systems offering opportunity.

To crack the code and be the de-facto standard there needs to be a few key things they need to get right.

Being cross platform is key

The only way this is going to work is using a client which is on as many platforms as possible. Being locked into a single infrastructure the way Facetime is makes you a nice app which many people just can’t use. Despite what Apple may feel the whole world doesn’t use Apple products there are many alternative platforms out there. Not everyone is potentially ready to go tablet mobile and the Laptop and Desktop will be around for a while yet.

This is an area Skype has got covered well, it’s in bed with Facebook, it’s got clients for Windows, OSX, Ubuntu, IOS, Android and Windows Phone it’s everywhere. While Oovoo also has a multitude of clients however Skype has brand. However it’s important the Microsoft leave this as a brand to get on with it.

The IM Client problem

The situation these video conference VoIP tools find themselves in isn’t a new one competing standards have always existed in the IT industry and there is a direct comparison with the Instand Messenger (IM) clients. The user had a choice of MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk, Aol and many other competing systems and while they all had their pro’s and con’s they were inherently restrictive because unless your friends were all on the same system then you had to run multiple IM clients on your PC..

This was solved by the likes of Gaim which became Pidgin and Trillian wich worked as IM amalgamation systems which worked as a central hub letting the user have access to multiple systems from a single interface.

I’d suggest that the Video conferencing systems need or will need to open up their APi’s and have a system such as this otherwise some of these systems will just fall by the wayside no matter how good they are.

Bandwidth over mobile networks.

Bandwidth was cited as a cause on the landline video conferencing and the telco’s might be another issue. As we gradually move to 3G/4G networks yes the bottlenecks might not be there as much, but they will be there and the Telco’s seem to be pulling away from the all you can eat data plans. Video conferencing isn’t cheap on data and uses lots of it. So unless there are deals to be had the telcos could put the immediate kibosh on Videoconferencing on the go.. And this is important because we are now primeraly an on the go society and yes we may still be happy to make Video calls from our Laptop or even our smart TV it’s the tablet and phone where the future lies.

Communicating with Landlines

Yes, there is one final area where any VoIP system needs to have access, the fixed landline telephone. Sure you might call your friends and family on the mobile, you still call land lines when you are dealing with companies. so while Facetime, Skype, Oovoo and all the others offer free point to point video and voice calls. The ability to call a land line is potentially even as important from this service.

As these wireless systems take shape the option potentially of an iPad or Android tablet with a bluetooth headset a 3G tariff may be more enticing than a Mobile phone. Especially for those who actually use the smartphone more for the features than the calls. Skype for example with a Skype number on a Three(UK)  15Gb for £23 a month suddenly becomes a very enticing mobile phone alternative.. Free skype to skype calls and cheap uk and international calls.. this is just one option among many.

So what’s the story?

While Skype could be seen as the long-time de-facto standard it’s too early to tell, Facetime is an easy to use system and there ARE a lot of Apple users out there. To get big in this sector you need to be a brand your grandparents have heard about. As a user being the best doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than being the system which the most people use. I love Google+ yet find myself on Facebook not because it’s the best it’s where everyone I know is.

There is also potential that yes we like putting videos of each other on youtube and phones on Social sites maybe we just don’t want to video chat. However I get the feeling that the teenage audience disagree with that statement… and i’m just an old fart..

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