Thursday, February 24, 2011

Apple launches FaceTime app for Mac, but Apple keeps its video chat service in a small, closed box

How many times have heard that one day everybody will be video chatting? From François Truffaut's film Fahrenheit 451 to Star Trek, the future is supposed to involve calling one each other using cameras.
But it seems the future is, well, some time from now.

Apple today released a Mac version of its FaceTime video chat feature found on iPhone 4s. The app is in the Mac App Store and costs 99 cents due, apparently, to accounting requirements.

FaceTime is supposed to be open source, encouraging developers to include it themselves, but FaceTime remains a strictly WiFi, Mac or iPhone 4 based service, slowing the adoption of FaceTime to a crawl.

There are many reasons why video chat hasn't really caught on -- the biggest one being the just-of-bed look most of us have during the course of the day -- other reasons are a fear of stepping on the toes of the telecom companies.

Unlike Google Voice which lets you make free domestic phone calls from Gmail, Apple's FaceTime is in a small box: you can only call Mac or iPhone 4 owners, and iPhone owners must be on WiFi or the service won't work. It is, in a nutshell, not very useful under most circumstances.

But if video chat doesn't work under most circumstances whose fault is that? Apple is to blame for limiting FaceTime to a select few users and a select few circumstances. As a result why would a developer really care if FaceTime is 'open source' or not?

Update: Ever since I've installed this little app from Apple I've encountered all sorts of problems with my iSight camera, with my computer suddenly failing to recognize the camera, no volume, etc. This is one software application that is not ready for prime time -- kind of like FaceTime itself, I guess.