- Obama’s regulatory agenda will cost U.S. economy $143B next year: report
- Patriot Act author on James Clapper: Fire, prosecute him
- Russia P.M. Medvedev: No amnesty for political prisoners
- Michigan GOP Senate hopeful reminds government is the ‘servant’
- Christmas, by Congress: Members mull a 15-cent tax on trees
- U.S. unemployment falls to five-year low of 7 percent; 203K jobs added
- World mourns Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life; burial set for Dec. 15
- Bill O’Reilly reminds: Nelson Mandela ‘was a communist’
- John Boehner says GOP should support gay candidates: ‘I do’
- Grass-Whopper: Pan-fried cricket burgers go over big in New York City
KELLNER: Are you ready to ooVoo?
Question of the Day
It was in 1964, the year he was born, Philippe Schwartz told me the other day. AT&T, which once was a big deal in regular telephony, had demonstrated a Picturephone at the New York World's Fair.
The Picturephone was a device that let you see the person you were calling. It was big and gangly and complicated - for its time. The economics never made sense. Only a handful ever got out into the market; one-time AT&T Chairman Robert E. Allen reportedly had one in his office as he ascended the Bell System's ranks, but it didn't get much beyond the confines of old Ma Bell.
Fast forward to 2008, and we all have webcams. I have one I need to send to my dad; it sells for about $130, I think, and is designed for Macs that don't have built-in cameras, basically the Mac mini and the Mac Pro tower computer. In both cases, separate displays are required.
Mr. Schwartz is neither a historian nor a webcam salesman. He is, instead, chief executive of ooVoo, an online service (www.oovoo.com) that aims to bring videoconferencing to the masses, i.e., us. Slap the ooVoo software on your PC or Apple Mac (Linux users need not apply) and you can video-chat with as many as five other people if you pay for the service. Use the "free" version - banner ads help fund it - and you're limited to a three-way conversation.
In look and feel, the ooVoo arrangement of video screens looks a bit like an old episode of "Nightline" or the video-chat view of Apple Computer's iChat software. You can view the faces of your chat mates in an arc on the screen or in what I would call "Brady Bunch" mode: one large view and smaller video windows of the people who aren't talking. The service hosts about 4 million video chats a month, Mr. Schwartz said.
Some of these displays are dependent upon the kind of broadband connection you have. In a video chat, Mr. Schwartz and Philip Robertson, another ooVoo official, suggested that a wired, high-speed Internet connection was best.
All fine and good, you're thinking; it would be nice to have cross-platform video chats - unless Uncle Charlie gets on to talk (again) about his hernia surgery. But ooVoo isn't aiming just for the sentimental set.
One push for the service will be in business and other for "premium" users: For $10 a month, you can store or stream up to 1,000 minutes of recorded video, record an unlimited number of video calls and send video e-mails up to five minutes in length. Ad-supported users get just one-minute video e-mails and no storage. The firm also will tack on unlimited phone calling in the United States and Canada to premium subscribers who pay an extra $15 per month. Of course, all these charges are on top of whatever you're paying for broadband; dial-up Internet users (all six of you) need not apply.
In a Windows PC-based demo call with Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Robertson and a public relations minion from the ooVoo publicity agency, things went well, more or less. The video mostly was smooth and clear, and there were no audio hiccups at my end. There was a bit of audio feedback at the other end, which was fixed when I turned down my speaker volume.
Although I think the ooVoo software captured a still image of my fellow talkers, my attempts at doing a video recording of the session were unavailing. I could record the audio track but not the video. I was bummed, seeing my future as the Internet's Anderson Cooper going down the tubes. The ooVoo PR person said the service will look into the failing.
For now, using the product as a means to create a record of a conversation or event might be dicey: I would hate to gamble a big business negotiation on this without a lot of testing. That said, there well may be potential in all of this.
What I like is the notion that someone is trying to create a communications service that truly could have some practical uses. Not every feature is working as nicely as I would like right now, and not every feature works on every platform - a promised "high-definition" video mode is Windows-only, for instance.
However, if ooVoo can let me chat with my boss across 8,000 miles or with my father in Manhattan, that's a good thing. If I use the free service, so much the better.
• What's on your screen? E-mail Mark Kellner
About the Author
Mark A. Kellner is a religion columnist for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- KELLNER: Yes, Bible can be mined for health principles
- KELLNER: 3-D Imax 'Jerusalem' sure to enthrall, educate
- KELLNER: Rabbi, imam plead for understanding in 'Sons of Abraham'
- KELLNER: How (else) to read the Bible, 140 characters per chapter
- KELLNER: At world gathering, a troubling comment on evangelizing
Latest Blog Entries
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Activists urge Obama to go rogue, sidestep Congress
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- Rush Limbaugh: Obama trying to make Mandela death about himself
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- Obama administration issues permits for wind farms to kill more eagles
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- Chris Matthews: GOP less patriotic than South African white apartheid leaders
- MILLER: Obamacare enrollees include 101 members of the House of Representatives
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
Why can’t humans just be free to be humans?
Get in the middle of all the action inside and outside the boxing ring.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
White House pets gone wild!