The promise of video calling remains unfulfilled. Yes, there are a dozen ways to make video calls online. Why hasn’t it caught on?
When my parents are calling me using video calling, then I’ll know it’s mainstream. It’s not. Even Skype’s new video calling features don’t do enough to make it an effort for the masses. What’s the problem with video calling?
The Fragmented Fun Of Video Calling
How many ways can you place a video call using your Mac? There must be a dozen ways, from iChat to Skype to FaceTime to AIM and whatever else is left over.
Our family has members from here to Spain.
Most of the time we use Skype to keep in touch face-to-face.
Skype is the largest of all the online audio or video calling systems, yet we have relatives and friends who don’t use it.
Despite Skype being the de facto audio and video calling standard, it’s still a fragmented mess of differing protocols on differing devices. Will it ever end? Will Skype ever do video calling on the iPhone?
The New Stuff In Skype
The latest version of Skype for Mac has three basic new features, two of which iChat has already had for years, and one that’s a no brainer, and it’s missing one that’s sorely needed.
We call family and friends all over the US, Mexico, Canada, and Spain. Finally, Skype does group calling. That’s multiple faces onscreen at the same time. Yes, iChat’s had it for a few years but other than Mac users, who uses iChat?
Skype’s video group calling still requires a hefty Mac or PC, but works easily enough. Nearly as useful is the new integration with Address Book on your Mac. You’d be amazed how handy that is for audio and video calls (so separate Skype listing needed).
iPhone has a similar but improved version in Contacts for FaceTime. Skype’s new Control Bar window sits on top of all other Mac apps making it easy to see your status and to know what to click when a call comes in.
That’s all well and good, however…
The Phone vs. The Internet
There’s still that nagging problem with doing video calls from your computer (or, even audio calls) with everyone else in the world. No Skype video calling for iPhones.
Apple has FaceTime. But no FaceTime on Windows. Yet.
As good and wide spread as Skype is, there’s still no ubiquitous standard to rival calls made by your plain old telephone.
Skype for Mac’s integrated Address Book makes it easier to call. The Control Bar is easier to find and use. Group calling is a good feature for families and businesses, but suffers from quality, bandwidth issues, and the need for faster Mac or PC.
My guess is that video calling will settle in to a battle between Apple’s FaceTime (once there’s a Windows version, and it is released as an open source project) and Skype (once Skype video comes to the iPhone and is usable on all major cell phone carriers).
More than anything else, I want to sit on the beach on Coronado Island, let my kids frolic in the sand and surf, and whip out my iPhone to place a video conference call to half a dozen relatives wherever weather is crummy and let them feast their eyes on my Southern California contentment.
Until then, Skype rules. Just not on my iPhone.