Phone calls are apparently going the way of print media. After peaking in 2007, the number of mobile calls we’re making is dropping. They are also getting shorter. In 2005 they averaged 3 minutes – now it’s about half. This doesn’t mean we’re in touch less. The opposite is true. We can just tailor our communications to the best suited medium.
Maybe I’m the only one here, but ever since I saw Back to the Future II, I’ve wondered when home video calling (chatting, whatever, call it what you will) was going to take off. Especially with the increased usage of web cams beginning early last decade (still not used to referring to it as that yet), and more recent interest in platforms like Ustream, not to mention just the nature of human communications, people obviously have an affinity for face-to-face interaction. And hey, if someone can dream it, eventually someone could create it, right? Yet, heretofore, the only place I’ve really ever seen anything resembling video calling is in business teleconferencing.
But it seems video calling in the home may now become a reality…
Tuesday, Skype announced that it has partnered with LG and Panasonic to bring consumers HDTVs that will indeed allow them to communicate face to face with friends and family (assuming both parties are technologically equipped to support such communication). LG and Panasonic will be manufacturing these new sets with Skype services built-in, and Skype will offer compatible add-on web cams, tailored specifically to the demands and constraints of consumers living rooms, which consumers can use to communicate with others via Skype’s existing service.
Whether or not this will provide the incentive the companies hope will entice consumers to upgrade their current HDTVs is naturally unclear. As HDTV prices have dropped drastically, many consumers have finally jumped into the HD market. But this has only happened over the last year or two, meaning many consumers probably aren’t planning on buying another TV anytime soon…unless, that TV can offer them something valuable that they can’t get from their current HDTV.
My personal opinion is – as with almost everything, it will depend on pricing. Skype says the web cams that will facilitate this communication will fall somewhere in the $100 to $200 range. But consumers will also have to own a compatible HDTV from LG or Panasonic, and at least according to this New York Times report, those can come at a premium of $300 more than other HDTVs on the market. So all totaled, we’re talking about potentially a $500 additional investment just to be able to converse with someone via video from your living room (someone else who has also invested the necessary $500, that is). It’s certainly an exciting idea, but for the average price of a new HDTV plus $500, I’m not sure how many consumers are going to be falling all over themselves to upgrade.
Of course, as with all new technology, prices won’t stay that high forever. Frankly, the way technology moves today, in a year we’d probably be talking about shelling out about half as much ($250) for the same Skype-enabled HDTV with a Skype web cam. So even the sheer availability may be enough to excite consumers (like me). And just maybe, Skype, LG and Panasonic’s venture could even have a major impact on the way we communicate with each other.
Either way, now that we’ve accomplished video calling, what I wanna know is – how much longer ’til someone tackles the hoverboard?