Friday, October 08, 2004

iSight and iChat AV...First Impressions

I have been using the video and audio chat features of MSN Messenger on Windows for 4-5 years to keep in touch with remote relatives. My experience with the software has always been mixed. Sometimes it would work perfectly, other times I would see it be unable to make connections, dropped connections, poor audio, dropped video, etc. etc. I don't totally blame MSN Messenger for this, this stuff was definitely bleeding edge, but my expectations were always low for the user experience. And then I tried iChat AV and a friend's iSight. Wow! The video quality was phenominal, my first reaction was: "That is getting close to TV quality". The other truly surprising thing was that audio just worked and was in sync with the picture. MSN Messenger always makes you run through some calibration wizard, boy did my parents hate that! But this stuff would be totally useless if iChat AV didn't interoprate with AIM. Let's face it, an IM network is most valuable when you have a lot of people on, you get the network effect. If iChat was Mac to Mac only, the iSight would never have come home. So my complete smoke test was iChat AV to AIM on Windows, and I thought this was a good enough experience for the relatives. Since I recently completed elimination of all PC hardware from my home computing experience, I had to acquire a webcam for the Mac, and my positive experience with the iSight test made the decision easy. After I got the relatives setup on AIM, we just start making connections and it just works. Using iChat and iSight does consume all my outbound DSL bandwidth, so I might need an outbound bandwidth upgrade. Getting this whole rig setup was really done to keep the grandparents of my 4 month old son happy, one set is in FL and the other in PA, I am in CA. And I may just have started the ball rolling on another switcher. My mother-in-law using the AIM client only gets a small window of incoming video. When I told here that iChat can go Full Screen and the video if you have an iSight looks great, she is definitely enticed. This would be where my other suggestion that Apple needs a headless sub-$1000 machine makes so much sense, my son's grandparents would have already replaced their PC towers with Macs.