increments of learning (attrition)

I’ve been pursuing video calling technologies for roughly 20 years. For the first years (and before my experience), a major challenge was lack of adequate networks for calling, when even Basic Rate ISDN (two 64 kilobit channels) was often hard to find. Today, even cell phones often have multi-megabit connections. Though there are network limitations and frustrations, the available networks are usually more than adequate.

Then, and certainly now, an even larger challenge has been incompatibility between calling products. There have been many laments about lack of inter-operability, long before, and after my last one, When will they ever learn?.

It is hard to call changes from last year “progress”, or even “learning”, but there have been some improvement by attrition of isolated products. Now that Skype has acquired Qik, Qik seems to be emphasizing stored video over video “chat”. (Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic. Yet, I have never known anyone to actually use Qik video chat.) Logitech TV Cam, which I lamented, has seemingly morphed into Logitech TV Cam for Skype®. Most notably, Cisco has discontinued Umi. So at least one anomalous product is gone and a second has gained inter-operability.

There are other bits of progress. BlueJeans inter-operability between Skype and H.323 systems is one of the pleasant surprises of the last year. It is hard to anticipate what Microsoft will do with Skype, but that acquisition may lead to more inter-operability between Skype and other systems, at least Microsoft’s Lync, and maybe more SIP flexibility.

Until video calling is as inter-operable as voice calling, the inability of one product to call another is unacceptable. As long as major players, such as Apple and Google, introduce new products that preclude video calls to existing products, laments are appropriate. When incompatible products are abandoned, or morph into more compatible products, some small celebrations seem in order.

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