The sheer power of video is well-known; we all remember what it did to radio back in the ’80s, after all. But what would happen if video picked a fight with video? Curious, we tossed two of the top video chat options into a cage to determine the superior specimen. Skype may be the big man on campus, but Google's scrappy video calling plugin delivers the same features from within the Google ecosystem. There can be only one!
Note: This article was taken from the September issue of the magazine.
Skype has announced today that it is preparing to adopt Google’s open source VP8 codec for all video calls. The upcoming Skype 5.5 Windows client will use VP8 for 1-to-1 calls as well as group calls, which have used VP8 for some time. This is definitely a boost to Google’s WebM open video initiative.
Video chat is the hot new thing. Everyone is doing it, and everyone has an idea how to do it best. Tango has thus far only been available on smartphones. But the company has just gotten an infusion of venture capital, and plans to go toe-to-toe on the desktop with the industry leader, Skype.
The ink hasn’t even dried on Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, but the Redmond based software giant appears to be working diligently in the background to push the VOIP service to even more platforms. Facebook has scheduled an invitation only even for July 6th , and the rumor mill seems pretty certain Mark Zuckerberg will announce a browser based version of Skype, which integrates with your Facebook friends list.
Everyone was a little flummoxed last week when Microsoft announced it had acquired Skype for a whopping $8.5 billion. The price seemed to be excessive and Microsoft to be an unlikely suitor. But today Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates has told the BBC that he advocated for the deal.
Google has announced today that native video chat is coming to the Android phone platform. The new version of Google Talk will be bundled in the new Android 2.3.4 update, which is currently rolling out to the Google Nexus S. Video chat debuted on Honeycomb with the Motorola Xoom, but this is the first time we've gotten confirmation the feature was coming to phones.
Cisco announced a new HD video chat service named Umi Telepresence that will allow friends and family to connect with each other from the comfort and privacy of their living room in full 1080p HD.
In an event held in downtown San Francisco, Cisco invited press and analysts to get some hands-on experience with the home videoconferencing system. Here are the basic details and our initial thoughts on the product:
The Umi Telepresence system consists of a HD camera with a multi-microphone array, a set-top box that connects to a home network via a wired or wireless connection, and a small remote control. A high-speed connection of at least 1.5 megabits per second will be required to send and receive an HD stream. The service automatically downscales to 720p or 480p based on your connection speed.
The camera itself is about 16 inches long by about 4 inches deep. A mounting bracket allows you to easily attach the camera to a flat-screen HDTV. HDMI is supported. The set-top box is about the size of a DirectTV box. Cisco declined to state specifically what kind of hardware is in the box, but the company did say that it uses four independent processors, and that these processors are dedicated to specific tasks such as video, audio, and networking.
The interface consists of a small clover-sized module that sits in the top right-hand corner of the screen. One nice touch is that the Umi set-top box is a pass-through device, so you can answer and make video calls while watching TV. To address concerns around privacy, Umi will have a lens shutter and a parental lock. Users can also choose to receive calls only from their contacts, and can also block callers.
Adobe has given us a peek at a peer-to-peer video calling system on Android that uses the cross-platform Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR). The name of the app is, get ready for it, FlashTime. Yeah, take that Apple. The app has direct access to the camera hardware just as a standard app would, and works much as Apple's FaceTime service does. The system uses Adobe's Stratus servers to connect two devices (in this case Nexus Ones).
The point here doesn't seem to be to show something completely new, as Android users already have apps like Fring and Qik to make video calls. Adobe is just showing what their Flash products can do on mobile phones. The FlashTime app will presumably be easy to port to other platforms on which Flash is available.
This isn't going to help to patch things up between Apple and Adobe, but maybe in this brave new world, Adobe can get by without the iPhone. If there were a reliable cross-platform video chat app like FlashTime on your phone, would you use it?
The new iPhone 4 has a new video chat feature called FaceTime. As buyers of the new phone have learned with some dismay, there really aren't that many people to they can video chat with. The fature is only for iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 calling. Luckily Apple has worked out a solution so you can try out the feature. Just call 1-888-FACETIME anytime from 8am to 8pm CDT, and you can chat with a random Apple rep over FaceTime.
The rep will apparently give you a rundown of features and answer any questions you have about FaceTime. While this is a little weird, it's probably a good way to show off the feature which most consumers won't have a change to use until more of their acquaintances have the phone. Keep in mind that you have to be connected to Wi-Fi for this to work; another limitation of the FaceTime feature. We're not sold on the usefulness of video calls, but now we can all find out if it will catch on.
It’s the Holiday season, and that means a lot of time catching up with relatives on the phone or in person. You can make those long-distance calls a lot more personal though, by setting up your living room TV to act as a video phone.
And really, setting up a video chat session on your living room PC isn’t all that hard. We’ll show you how you can get started video chatting with just three simple steps: Finding the right connector, setting up a webcam, and installing video chat software.
We’ll warn you ahead of time: this guide is written to be a little more newbie-friendly then our usual how-tos here at MaximumPC. Now, we’re not forgetting our power-user fans, but we wanted to make this guide something you can send to your parents and other relatives, so that they can get in touch for the holidays.