Video conferencing has been around for a while, primarily on PCs and corporate settings, but with FaceTime on the iPhone 4, a lot of people are hopeful and optimistic the format will become a mainstream hit. I doubt they’ll be let down.
Personally, I’m not keen on video conferencing. If I was, I’d be using it already, but I admit I should get more excited about video calls. I live clear across the other side of the country from most of my family (beyond opposite coasts). I should try to get more face time (generic term, not trademark) with them. So even though FaceTime (not the generic term) does not get me fired up, I recognize the potential, and so do others.
Sachin Agarwal, CEO of blog-by-email system Posterous, claims “FaceTime will be successful because you don’t need an account”. Technically, you do need an account, but his main point is you don’t need yet another account. People are doing video calling on other phones using services like Fring and Skype, but the ability to call someone as you normally do and then switch it to a video call has been elusive. With its limitations (Wi-Fi only, limited to iPhone 4 calling until standards are established), FaceTime doesn’t quite have the whole package together, but it is a significant step forward.
Another party excited about FaceTime is Skype. In an exclusive with Pocket-Lint, a source within the company shares their excitement about getting the system to work with Skype. Though they almost certainly could not get Skype integrated into FaceTime, they could get the FaceTime functionality integrated into their Skype app and make it possible for FaceTime calls to connect with Skype users and vice versa. The system can be a win for everyone.
Until then, I expect FaceTime will be the big lure of the iPhone 4. Apple’s already hitting all the right emotional keys with their demo videos (which BTW are not the commercials directed by Sam Mendes), and the emotional draw will only increase once the commercials hit the air (which are directed by Sam Mendes). The brilliant part is, once I get an iPhone 4, people who love me will be highly tempted to get one too. Not just my distant family, but also my nearby wife who may want to see what I or the cats are up to. If she gets one, then her mom will want one to see what she’s doing, then her grandfather will want one, and so on and so forth in a grand domino effect. Now take that example and apply it to everyone gets an iPhone 4. I’m sure only a small percentage of people will actually convert to the iPhone for this, but that’s a small percentage of a large pool. The marketing angle on this is brilliant. Technologically, FaceTime is nothing new, but the implementation and marketing should take video calling to a new high.