Apple CEO Steve Jobs bit off a lot when he vowed to make FaceTime video calling an open industry software standard and said that Apple will ship tens of millions of FaceTime-connected devices in 2010.
All of those competitors are surely interested in providing video chat with mobile devices and could easily favor going in a separate direction from Apple. Developing one's own technology outside of the mainstream industry standard is the very nature of how some technology companies compete -- and win -- today, including Apple.
"I hope Apple is successful in convincing Cisco, Microsoft, Google and others that FaceTime is a good standard for video telephony," said Charles Golvin, a Forrester Research analyst, in a blog praising the new iPhone 4, which will provide FaceTime video calling.
"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," Golvin continued. "[It's] about time we realize at least part of the promise of the 1964 New York World's Fair." There, AT&T introduced the Picturephone for video calls, a technology that never caught on partly because it required a critical mass of users to have them.
Jobs made his ambitious FaceTime promises deep into his Worldwide Developers Conference keynote Monday, where he announced the next version of Apple's smartphone, the iPhone 4, starting at about one hour and 30 minutes in. Video of the entire two-hour keynote is available on the Apple site.
"This is amazing," Jobs said, referring to video calling and FaceTime. "I grew up in the U.S. ... dreaming about video calling, and it's real now," he said, referring to watching video calls made on TV shows with Star Trek's Communicator device and in The Jetsons, a futuristic cartoon.
"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," Jobs said, adding, "FaceTime is based on H.264 video ... and a bunch of alphabet-soup acronyms. We're going to the standards bodies tomorrow and making FaceTime an open standard."
Jobs' comments suggest several things, including that FaceTime will run on many other Apple products, not just the iPhone. Several analysts said Jobs has set his sights on a lofty goal, but for Jobs and Apple, almost anything seems possible. Several analysts said Apple, at least, will add FaceTime and related hardware (including at least one camera) for video calls to the iPad. Adding FaceTime capabilities to the popular iPod Touch media player, with some models including cameras, could bring Apple closer to 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 [million] to 8 million units."
If Apple were to introduce a second-generation iPad with a front-facing camera, "that would get us [to tens of millions] perhaps, but such a fast rev of that platform would be dangerous, although not unprecedented for Apple, for early adopters," he said.