Jobs has lofty goal for iPhone 4's FaceTime video chat with open standard

Can Apple really ship tens of millions of FaceTime devices in 2010?

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Howe said it's unlikely that 10 million FaceTime-capable products will ship from Apple in 2010, and that tens of millions in 2011 is "more likely."

Having many FaceTime clients to connect to is also critical for video calling to catch on, added analyst Kevin Burden of ABI Research.

Video chat users, especially in the enterprise, would want to have video-calling capability not only to another iPhone 4, but also to other Apple devices and to phones from other manufacturers. These phones would need to have powerful processors and two cameras, one forward-facing and one facing backward, he said.

Nokia makes several such video-calling-capable phones with two cameras, as do other manufacturers. The use of these phones for video calling is more widespread in Asian countries, where it is harder to text because of the many characters needed in Chinese and Japanese, analysts said. But video chat in Nokia devices hasn't been all that popular, Burden said.

When Jobs said the FaceTime software will work only between iPhone 4s, it seemed to contradict his additional statement that FaceTime will ship on tens of millions of Apple devices this year, which some analysts said could mean added products will soon interoperate with iPhone 4's FaceTime.

One other possibility is that Apple could be counting on Cisco's adding FaceTime and wireless functions to its Flip cameras, or Microsoft's adding FaceTime to its Windows Phone Series 7 OS or Google adding it to a coming Android OS.

In an e-mail response, a Cisco spokesman said: "Cisco believes in open standards as evidenced in our recent TIP [TelePresent Interoperability Protocol] announcement." That announcement referred to Cisco's willingness to enable its room-size telepresence systems to interoperate with third-party systems, including those of recently acquired Tandberg.

A Google spokeswoman didn't address FaceTime directly but said Google's software is "built on top of open standards and platforms. ... We will continue to strive for openness in our communications platforms."

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

The willingness by Cisco and other large vendors to cooperate with Apple would be as important as Apple's working through various standards bodies made up of small and large video and audio manufacturers, analysts added.

Asked to give odds on Apple's chances of winning an industry open standard for FaceTime, Forrester's Golvin said via e-mail: "I hate to hedge but it really depends on whom they're able to enlist as supporters of their approach. If big players like Cisco, AT&T and others endorse Apple's approach, then its chances are good. But if other players view it as favoring Apple, then it will remain in isolation."

Golvin said that with millions of video-chat-capable smartphones and other devices deployed, it's "possible to realize the 1964 New York World's Fair vision of video telephony, but only if video calling can be made as interoperable and seamless as voice calling."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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