However, I think this follow-up article by Gizmodo is very interesting. Certainly, we've already heard that the new iPhone OS 4 adds new capabilities to support VoIP. But this article suggests that the new iPhone hardware may support a front facing camera needed to do video calling.
Video calling has been tried and flopped many times before, which is usually the kind of challenge Mr. Jobs looks for.
Just putting a front facing camera on a phone isn't enough to 'support' video calling. The subscriber is now holding the phone away from their head, so it's either a very public speakerphone situation, or the subscriber needs to have a headset. Next is the issue of who to call and how.
Mobile operator-supplied video calling services were burdened by several issues:
- First, subscribers needed a video calling phone. While cool, they weren't overwhelmingly compelling. And, they required you and the person you wanted to chat with to get the same or similar 'supported' phones.
- Second, there was little (or no?) cross network compatibility. There are many issues to delivering video streams between unique network providers, especially when the service lives inside the walled garden.
- Third, there was little (or no?) support for non-mobile devices. The most prevalent video calling is desktop based today. The service should certainly interconnect with those desktop apps.
So basically, there were plenty of reasons for operator-based video calling to struggle.
Now along comes a potentially new iPhone. IPhones are compelling and people will get them regardless of support for video calling (overcoming issue #1). Assuming, as they do in the article, this video calling service is via iChat or Skype, the service won't be restricted by a walled garden, making cross network connectivity easier. And certainly if iChat and/or Skype are supported, the ability to connect to desktops will also be supported.
But I think this also addresses another unspoken issue with video calling... I really don't want to pay extra for it. Mobile operators are in the business to generate revenues. A massive investment in a new service with dim prospects on a return of that investment are not part of the business plan. But, if they tie in to free services like iChat and Skype, I think consumers might actually use it.
Will Mr. Jobs succeed again in giving us something we really weren't sure we needed?