My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Skype and the Videophone - The Apple of my Eye is FaceTime

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Skype and the Videophone - The Apple of my Eye is FaceTime

Let’s play a love game
Play a love game
Do you want love
Or you want fame
Are you in that game?

Excerpt from the Song LoveGame by Lady Gaga

Skype, the much beloved software for which may, even Yendi Phillips, are thanking God, is now trying to go one step further. No longer do they wish to be that application that you have only on your notebook, PC, Mobile smart phone to make long distance calls at fractions of the cost of that directly over Telecoms Providers Networks.

But they wish to welcome you to the age of the The Jetsons (TV Series 1962-1988) and Blade Runner (1982) and even Aliens (1986), which ironically was predicted a long time ago by Victorian-era French novelist Albert Robida, an illustrator and writer for popular science-fiction magazines, and who is sometimes compared to Jules Verne.

In his 1890 novel Le Vingtieme siecle. La vie electrique, he spoke of a fanciful Victorian-era contraption to his beloved audience called a “telephonoscope”, basically a telephone that allowed you to see who you were talking to while you conversed with them, in effect Video Calling as described in the article “Skype on TV: Will the videophone finally be reality?”, published March 2, 2010 4:00 AM PST by Erica Ogg, CNET News - Circuit Breaker.

Indeed, as the title of the article begs, when will this blast from the past or snapshot of the future, whichever you fancy, be a reality? The time appears to be now, as the elements to make Video Calling mainstream appear to be falling in place.

And Telecom Provider CLARO has all the elements in place. Nothing like rehashing an old topic that seems so close to fruition yet so elegantly far away yet again.

My giddy optimism makes me sound like a young teenager at the Epcot Center Display at Walt Disney, ever hopeful that I, John Public, would see the coming together of some technological showpieces that would indicate the coming of Video Calling.

Most people may be familiar with Video Calling from the point of view of Telecom Provider CLARO and Latin America, Japanese and South Korean Telecoms Providers and their phones that often have the ubiquitous front facing camera, but the phenomenon of front facing cameras for Video Calling in the European Union and even in the United States of America is not a common sight

The Mobile smart phone market is just beginning to demand this service, with favourable responses, such as shown in the Video CNET First Look HTC Evo 4G (Sprint), aired Saturday May 22nd 2010 by Bonnie Cha, Senior Editor, CNET News.

The most recently announced smart phone HTC Droid Incredible 4G on Telecom Provider Verizon 4G Wireless Broadband Network, as stated in the Video CNET Buzz Report, aired Thursday May 6th 2010, by Molly Wood, Executive Editor, CNET News assessed in the Video CNET First Look HTC Droid Incredible (Verizon Wireless) aired Monday April 19th 2010 by Bonnie Cha, Senior Editor, CNET News support Video Calling.

Indeed, one of the complaints about the recently launched Apple iPad is that it lacks a front facing or rear facing camera for Video calls as stated in the article “Early reviews: iPad is 'beautiful', 'blazingly fast', 'has a touch of genius'”, published Wednesday April 1st 2010 by Ben Patterson, Yahoo News.

But the idea of Video Calling in the United States seem to have been initially scratched when computer maker Apple attempted to bring the magic of their Apple iPod device into the living room with the introduction of the Apple  TV in 2007.

Effectively an Internet Television set that could connect to any plasma or LCD display at the time and deliver streaming content over the Internet from music to movies as stated in the article “Apple invades the Living Room”, published Saturday March 31 2007, 3:24 AM ET by Antony Bruno, Billboard/Reuters, Yahoo News.

From the very start, it was obvious Apple had big ambitions for this device, as it was too easily hacked and modified by hackers who got curious and violated their warranties and opened up Apple’s latest toy.

Inside, they saw circuit board placements in the device that hinted strongly at a future in which the Apple TV could be used for making Video calls over broadband Internet connections as elusively suggested in the article “Hackers upgrading Apple  TV's capabilities” published  Monday April 16, 2007 7:14 AM ET By Russ Juskalian, USA TODAY, Yahoo News.

Apple has since abandoned this project, regarding it merely as a “hobby”, only to have recently returned to it with a new device, rechristened the Apple iTV that is quarter the size and a streaming, hard-drive less Sling Box clone.

But unfortunately with no FaceTime support but a marginally sweeter offering in terms of US$0.99 movie rentals from Amazon for content on FOX and ABC, with movie streaming on NetFlix as stated in the article “New Apple TV: $99 Netflix streaming, 99-cent TV rentals”, published September 1, 2010 11:43 AM PDT by Matthew Moskovciak, CNET News – Crave as well as in the article “For 99 cents, Amazon sells shows, Apple  rents them”, published September 1, 2010 2:31 PM PDT by Ina Fried, CNET News - Beyond Binary.

This is a concept that the Tech Spy Carlette Deleon aka The Pet Tales Chick aka “Dilly” on Smile Jamaica, aired Wednesday September 1st 2010, Television Jamaica was quick to point out on the Day of its announcement by CEO Steve Jobs on Wednesday September 1st 2010.

The Chinese, Japanese and South Koreans, with their insatiable love for High Speed Wireless Internet, built out Telecoms Provider’s Networks with the capability to support Video Calling. NTT DoCoMo, a Japanese Telecoms provider that pioneered ring back tones with music, and Television on Mobile phones,

A concept that Telecoms Provider Digicel in Jamaica later copied and tried vainly to sell to its customers in 2006, was one of the first Telecoms Providers to provide Mobile phones with front facing cameras to use their High Speed 3G Networks to make Video calls. Could the Apple iTV be the Telecom Provider’s Swan Song?

Possibly because of its widespread usage on regular Mobile phones, much in the same way Bluetooth was common on earlier 2G Mobile phones.

This made Customers and Subscribers of Telecoms Providers in European Union and the United States of America who purchased unlocked Chinese and Japanese phones see Video Calling as a 2G feature for low end phones

Thus it was not initially demand it on their new Mobile smart phones such as the Apple iPhone in 2007 AD and later with the Apple iPhone 3GS in 2008 AD and its various imitators.

But as 4G Networks are now coming as stated in the article “Digicel all set to unveil 4G Broadband offering”, published Friday, August 13, 2010 by AL EDWARDS, The Jamaica Observer

The call for front facing cameras has been growing and the Telecoms Providers have been passing on the message to the Mobile Handset Vendors who manufacture these Mobile smart phones.

Thus far, only Chinese and Taiwanese Mobile Handset Vendors such as Huawei and HTC have responded by making Mobile phones that support 3G and 4G and port front facing cameras, albeit on basic phones and often incompatible.

Leaving many frustrated with the small screens and the poor Video quality, another reason for the lack of its mainstream adoption in the European Union and the United States of America.

Thus this deal between Skype in 2010 AD and big HDTV complaint set makers Samsung, Panasonic and LG is most likely to work, as most people in the West, unlike their technology crazy Far East Asian cousins, usually associate Video Calling.

Movies, cartoons and popular culture showed the concept as being vividly portrayed as a comfortable experience in ones living room via a Television set or projector as suggested in such shows as The Jetsons (TV Series 1962-1988) and Blade Runner (1982) and even Aliens (1986).

This may be another reason why Video Calling was not so heavily demanded by Mobile smart phone used by Customers and Subscribers in the European Union and the United States of America.

Skype is not new to most people, as according to the article" Skype on TV: Will the videophone finally be reality?", published March 2, 2010 4:00 AM PST by Erica Ogg, CNET News - Circuit Breaker.

Most adults, considered here to be in the age range thirty (30) and older, the main market for VoIP Video phone Calling, are familiar with using Skype on their laptops, Mobile smart phones or PC’s. Skype has nearly 521 million (521,000,000) registered accounts or Customers and Subscribers who pay for their monthly service, usually adults

This as Customers and Subscribers in the demographic thirty (30) and younger are usually young people trying to save on long distance Calling and are comfortable Calling from computer to computer on Skype, which Skype offers for free, the thirty (30) and older crowd being people who work.

Thus, it is established that there is a built-in audience who is already signed up and knows how to use it.

iSuppli, an analyst website that tracks technology developments via news related to component purchases for making electronic gadgets, conducted a survey in eight hundred (800) consumers in the United States of America who bought TVs in January 2010.

iSupppli found that 27.5 percent of them have connected their new sets to the Internet, either through the TV itself or via an external device such as a game console or digital Video box.

This is again another positive indication that Skype is on the right track in inking deals with the Big Three HDTV set makers Samsung, Panasonic and LG, who also have plans to roll out 3D Television sets to take advantage of the 3D viewing craze that has caught on in gadget crazy United States of America.

So says the article the article “Samsung, Panasonic start selling 3-D TV's this week”, published Tue March 9 2010, 11:04 am ET, By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Write, AP, Yahoo News. due to the popularity of both Avatar and Alice in Wonderland – higher ticket prices not withstanding.

Effectively this is teleconferencing about which DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gagnon is quoted as saying “Teleconferencing is inherently kind of a low-quality experience, especially in a consumer home. On a computer it works OK, but blown up to the size of the TV, I wasn't terribly impressed with some of the demos at CES”.

A foreboding of the low Video quality of VoIP Video Calling over Skype using a HDTV set and a broadband connection, equipment that is already available off the shelf.

As this is not high end Video gaming, being able to see clearly the face the other persons with whom you are conversing is just fine, as evident by the acceptance of the facility by Jamaica National which offers complementary Video Calling wherever you send or receive remittances via its remittance facility.

Thus the obvious should be clear. Telecom Provider America Movil, the parent company of Telecom Provider CLARO, is going about the introduction of Video Calling in a manner that will be difficult to catch on with most people wary of purchasing low end Mobile phones with a front facing camera that has a smart phone price.

This would explain the lackluster interest by John Public in purchasing phones with Video Calling capability among Jamaicans for such a high price, especially as the screen resolution is so poor and most Video Calling phones are incompatible with each other.

Instead, a better approach would be to sell 3G to Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) routers, that receive 3G signal and rebroadcast it as Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n). This router could be built into a SFF (Small Form Factor) Receiver Box has Skype software built in and would have also a connector for:

  1. NTSC, PAL SECAM and HDMI on HDTV compliant Television sets
  2. A jack for a RJ 45, FireWire, USB 2.0, Wireless HDMI, WiGIG and even Fiber Optic connection
  3. LTE or WiMax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16) and eventually WiMax 2 (IEEE 802.16m)

Again as stated in the article “Industry heavies set to push WiMax upgrade”, published April 14, 2010 5:51 AM PDT by Matthew Broersma, CNET News – Wireless.

Offering discounts on the purchase of a new 3-D HDTV set pre-loaded with Skype from a retailer such as Courts, provided that a bundle could be provided with Telecom Provider CLARO’s 3G modem would also suffice and in fact may be the ultimate way to go, as people will be looking to upgrade to HDTV this Christmas 2010.

Thus any Television set, a device with which the target demographic of adults is already familiar, can be connected to this set top box and be made into a screen to make and receive Video calls, with a Cordless Phone or Bluetooth enabled Mobile Phone with the correct Skype application software being supplied that would act as the talking device and speakers on the Television set reproducing the voice of the caller in the conversation.

To add that antediluvian touch, the SFF (Small Form Factor) Receiver Box could be made to transmit the ring tone to the Cordless Phone or Bluetooth enabled Mobile Phone whenever someone calls, or just make a traditional house phone ringing sound, as is the case in The Jetsons.

If Telecom Provider CLARO were to adopt either of these strategies in Jamaica, it would definitely put them as the leader not only in Mobile High Speed Wireless Internet, but also in 3G Video Telephony, or Video Calling for short.

The only other competitors is Telecom Provider LIME, which currently has coverage only in Greater Kingston, with an intention to expand to Montego Bay as stated in the article “LIME to build US$40m 3 Network for Montego Bay”, published Sunday June 27, 2010, by Janeta Silvera, Senior  Gleaner, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Plans, albeit half-baked, to launch Television on your Mobile Phone as stated in the article “LIME goes Mobile TV”, published Saturday August 28th by Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner with Telecom Provider LIME Chairman, Christopher Dehring (or should I say DJ Chris D? Shizzle…….. ) stating: “We are the revolution. Some people say they have 4G, we say we have more G”.

From this, I am guessing that gangster rap may be the theme of the Christmas launch in 2010 as stated in the article “TV on your mobile phone this Christmas”, published Friday, August 27, 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

Telecom Provider Digicel, though having launched their Telecom Provider Digicel’s WiMax 4G Wireless Mobile (IEEE 802.16d), is yet to make good on its other promise, that of DigiTV, a Wireless Subscriber Television Service, ironically in partnership with DC Digital, who was supposed to be their content provider as stated in the article “DigTV launch for 2009 - mobile Provider branches into TV, published Friday November 14th 2009 by Ross Sheil, Online Co-ordinator, The Jamaica Observer.

Hence it would be good to be ahead of the competition by launching a Video Calling service structured as described above in order to gain early market share over Telecom Provider Digicel for this obviously low hanging fruit ripe for the picking for the Telecoms Provider early to the market.

Only Triple Play Provider FLOW is the current immediate threat, as they already offer voice telephony over their Digital Cable service, which is only a hop and a step till they begin offering Video Calling, hence the necessity for haste in Telecom Provider CLARO making a decision on pursuing Video Calling via this media, or even working with the Apple  TV until a future Refresh supports FaceTime Video Calling.

So Telecom Provider CLARO has to decide from now to pursue this strategy. As Lady Gaga says in her song LoveGame, “Do you want Love or want Fame”……………….as you cannot have both. But the question now begs….what happened to Telecom Provider Digicel’s intended push into DigiTV? Stay tuned……………

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