After 46 Years Of Unfulfilled Hype And Promises, Is Video Calling Finally Ready?
from the and-here-we-go-again dept
And, of course, lots of folks are pointing out all of the standard reasons why video calling has never taken off: people don't want to have to "look good" just to use the phone. They don't want to have to even think about it. Slashdot points us to a typical story about how people in the UK won't adopt it -- and that's no surprise. As I noted in that column six years ago, it was all the rage (from operators) in the UK, and almost no one used it. So the UK has already gone through this whole video calling craze.
Now, as someone who's been skeptical of video calls for ages, I'll admit that I'm still skeptical of this go around. But... I may finally be hedging those bets, and admitting that I can see some uses for video calling. I just don't think it's what most people think they'd use it for. I still don't see any real market for your everyday video calling, adding video functionality to the calls people make on a daily basis. There's just so little benefit, and enough potential downside that I just don't see people doing it. But I can see some interesting other uses, including opening up new possibilities. For example: tech support. I can't count the number of times I've had to call my home broadband provider to complain about downtime -- and the conversation almost always involves "what are the lights on the modem doing" or "where is this cable plugged into" or whatever. I could definitely see value in just being able to show them what's going on. Same thing with calls to doctors. Your kid has a rash? Why not do a video call with a nurse to see if you really need to bring him into the doctor? And, of course, as more and more people have discovered with webcams, you have a whole new world of communicating via video (it's becoming more important for families, for example) -- and people will use video phones to set up more mobile video services for broadcasting themselves live to larger audiences (rather than just one to one).
Beyond the standard "vanity" and "looks" reasons why video calling never took off, there was really an infrastructure problem. You had a serious "empty room" problem. No one would buy a video phone if no one else had one. But what's happening now is that smartphones are becoming advanced enough that people are happily buying them for a whole variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the video calling. And, because of that, the infrastructure to do more regular video calls is actually becoming more widespread. With ubiquitous built-in video for phones, I can actually see more people starting to use it. I still don't think most people will use it on everyday calls. In fact, I still don't think it will really be that big of a feature in terms of usage. But I'm not yet convinced that it will totally crash and burn this time around. Could it be... after 46 years.. that some element of video calling's time has come?