Mobile Video Chatting Needs To Grow Up - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

11:03 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

Mobile Video Chatting Needs To Grow Up

Apple, Google, Skype, and other tech vendors need to develop a standard or share their technology to ensure interoperability, which is the key to pushing video chatting into the mainstream.

Anyone remember when you could only make mobile-to-mobile calls within the same network? For example, AT&T customers could only connect with other AT&T mobile customers and not those on the networks of Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless. That kinda sucked. In the end, the carriers let everyone make calls to whomever they wanted because that's what the market demanded.

Using this example as a historical frame of reference, let's cast our eyes upon mobile video chatting.

On Tuesday, Qik updated its video chatting application for the Android platform. Before yesterday's update, Qik only worked on select networks and between select devices. This hindered the service's uptake. The new version allows most any Android device to conduct live, two-way video chats with other Android devices and, surprisingly, the Apple iPhone (if the iPhone also has Qik installed). Skype now owns Qik.

Skype has its own, separate software for video chatting. It works with Android and iPhone devices, as well as Windows and Apple computers.

We all know that the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch can conduct FaceTime chats with other iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, and Apple computers, but only when the iOS device is connected to Wi-Fi. Qik at least works across 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi networks.

Google created a video chatting application for Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but it only works between Honeycomb devices. A report that surfaced this week suggests Google is prepared to release a native video chatting application for all Android devices.

A service called ooVoo offers mobile video chatting between Android devices via 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi. It says that support for Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) is forthcoming. It also has desktop software.

The last major player is Fring, which offers video chatting, IM, group video chatting, and other features to Android, iOS, and Symbian devices. Video chats can be dialed up over 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi with Fring.

The problem with all of these services is that, for most part, they require users to have the same software. In other words, Qik video chats can only work with other devices running Qik software, and so on down the line. This is a flawed strategy.

While I fully understand these companies' need to forge their own identity and customer base, the number of limitations involved are effectively preventing mobile video chatting from taking off. End users don't care about the technology that makes it all happen, they just want to be able to connect to their colleagues, friends, and loved ones without too much fuss. So, how does this get fixed?

When Apple first announced FaceTime as a feature of the iPhone 4, it said that it would open up the technology under FaceTime's hood so that it could be used by others. Frankly, I've seen no evidence that it has actually done this, but let's assume the offer still stands. One obvious solution would be for every other provider to drop its own technology and use Apple's. Perhaps they can still offer differentiation through their user interfaces, or feature sets, or cost, but the basic functionality could be made to work across platforms and networks. This would be the easiest way out.

Another possible answer would be to create a standard. This would require the collective effort of the industry, and would cost money and take years to complete. In the end, this might be the best route for end users, as interoperability could be assured or mandated by the standard. But the drawbacks are many.

Perhaps Google will be generous and provide its own open video chatting standard that can be used across devices and platforms using standard Web technologies.

The bottom line here is that the silo approach is too confusing, too annoying, and stalling video chat services from becoming mainstream. The application developers, platform developers, handset makers, and network operators need to iron this out so that it works easily and simply no matter the device, platform, or network involved.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

How SolarWinds Changed Cybersecurity Leadership's Priorities
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/26/2021
How CIOs Can Advance Company Sustainability Goals
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  5/26/2021
IT Skills: Top 10 Programming Languages for 2021
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  5/21/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
This new report from InformationWeek explores what we've learned over the past year, critical trends around ITOps and SecOps, and where leaders are focusing their time and efforts to support a growing digital economy. Download it today!
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Flash Poll