Steve Jobs recently called to make FaceTime an open industry software standard for video calling. This is a lofty goal, involving talking to standards bodies and convincing competitors like Cisco, Microsoft and Google to get on board. While video chat will no doubt become common on phones going forward, generally most corporations have favored developing their own technology.
“I hope Apple is successful in convincing Cisco, Microsoft, Google and others that FaceTime is a good standard for video telephony,” said Forrester analyst Charles Golvin. “I have no idea whether [FaceTime] is the BEST solution, but we have enough video telephony endpoints out there that it’s time to make video calling as easy and interoperable as voice. [It’s] about time we realize at least part of the promise of the 1964 New York World’s Fair [when the Picturephone was introduced].”
Jobs made his FaceTime promises during his WWDC keynote. “This is amazing. I grew up in the U.S. … dreaming about video calling and it’s real now,” said jobs, referring to watching video calls made on TV shows like Star Trek and The Jetsons. “Apple will ship tens of millions of FaceTime devices this calendar year, so there’s going to be a lot of people to talk to. FaceTime is based on H264 video … and a bunch of alphabet soup acronyms. We’re going to the standards bodies tomorrow and making Facetime an open standard.”
Other Apple devices, like the iPod Touch media player, could see the addition of FaceTime and help reach Jobs’ goal. “I think tens of millions is a stretch with the current product line,” said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group. “You can assume iPhone 4s will sell easily a million a month for the next six months, but that only gets you to 6 to 8 million units.”
If the next iPad has a front facing camera, “that would get us there [to tens of millions] perhaps, but such a fast rev of that platform would be dangerous, although not unprecedented for Apple, for early adopters,” said Howe.
As for Google and Cisco, they seem obliged towards open standards, though not necessarily towards Apple’s. When asked about Apple’s chances, Golvin responded, I hate to hedge but it really depends on whom they’re able to enlist as supporters of their approach. If big players like Cisco, AT&T and others endorse Apple’s approach, then its chances are good. But if other players view it as favoring Apple, then it will remain in isolation.”