Wall Street Journal’s Mossberg: Apple’s iChat/iSight teleconferencing ‘vastly better than any other

Walt Mossberg writes for The Wall Street Journal, “for years, people have been trying to add audio and video to instant messaging. In fact, today you can hook up a cheap camera and microphone to your PC and conduct a video or audio chat using several services or software packages, including Microsoft’s MSN online service. But none of these attempts has caught on big with the general public so far. For one thing, the Web cameras and microphones were mostly mediocre, and raised all the usual hassles involved in adding new hardware to a Windows computer — getting the right software ‘drivers,’ for instance. Also, even over broadband, the pictures tended to be tiny and grainy, and the audio scratchy.”

Mossberg writes, “Now, Apple Computer, the king of high-tech style, is trying its hand at solving the problem. Apple recently released a video and audio version of the iChat instant-messaging software that comes with every Macintosh computer and links into America Online’s vast IM network. And, to make it all work, the company introduced a gorgeous $149 digital Web camera, named iSight. This thing has Apple written all over it. Not literally, of course. Instead, iSight is covered in the same aluminum alloy as Apple’s latest G4 laptops. The look is elegant, and even the box it comes in reeks of quality. But, having been burned before on video chatting, I was still skeptical. To see if Apple’s iSight was more than just a costly bauble, my assistant Katie and I tested it out on a variety of Apple computers.”

Mossberg reports, “overall, the iChat/iSight video chatting experience was vastly better than any other I’ve tried. It’s the first video-messaging system I’d use. iSight’s biggest drawback is you won’t be able to do video chatting with most of the world, which uses Windows and slow, dial-up connections. In fact, the system works with such a small percentage of Internet users that there are several Web sites dedicated to matching up iSight users for video conversations. Still, Apple often sets the trend for other companies. And sometimes, as in the case of the iPod music player, the company even deigns to extend its products to Windows users over time. So Apple’s success in video instant messaging holds hope for all of us.”

Full article here.

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