AOL gets videophone religion
AOL Tests Video Instant Messaging [Slashdot]
OK - so since AOL refused to open up the AIM protocol and stops folks like Jabber from inter-connecting their IM system to "the rest of us" - they've come up with a sneaky way of moving forward.
Currently in beta testing, the new AOL feature will enable the service's subscribers to activate an additional pane on their IM client. Within that pane, users can record video clips of themselves via a Web cam, and then send that clip to the buddy with whom they're chatting. Users will have to click to open each new clip they receive.
AOL agreed to the limitations of their "advanced multimedia messaging" - as long as they were the predominant IM client. So they've instituted "push-to-talk" - which is really all that can be done today, as opposed to keeping a real-time video connection on all the time. This sort of videophone compromise will get them into the game, as apparently Microsoft has struck a deal with Logitech to co-brand their Video Companion software.
As many times as I told people that videophoning would be the killer app of broadband, I was told "it can't be done". Well now it is. Though it won't ever be more than 20% of revenues garnered, I predict that this sort of "store-and-forward" videophoning will be the catalyst that will kickstart broadband into overdrive. Kids, grandparents and broadband enthusiasts will eat it up.
Then mainstream business guys and gals will figure out they that'll never have to get onto a plane again - and they'll like that. If mainstream AOL picks up on this - buy stock in camera, teleconferencing and ISP companies. And sell your airline, hotel and rental car stocks. Broadband - here we come.
I spent many months looking into practical consumer applications for async video communications. It will be interesting to see what the AOL implementation feels like, but the technology is definately there and the approach (async versus real-time) is the right one. My own experiments enabled people to easily record a video from a webcam or DV camera, and then send or publish through IM --- we used JBuddy to provide presence awareness and messaging into all the IM networks -- email or post to a blog using MetaWeblog API. It all worked great and makes tons of sense for broadband suppliers and consumers.