Mobile Video Calling Can’t Survive Fragmentation

Mobile Video Calling Can’t Survive Fragmentation

Every day there seems to be a new mobile video conferencing service popping up. Fring, ooVoo, Skype, Facetime, and so on. They’re each great in their own respect, and each have their own great features – FaceTime works natively on iPhone 4, ooVoo for Android has six way video chat, and Skype has a huge installed base. However, none of these services have really helped bring widespread mobile video conferencing into mass use. Sure, lots of people have capable handsets, but I don’t believe they actually use it.The problem is platform fragmentation.

Spring and Fring get a huge product placement in last week's episode of Fringe, on FOX. Click for video.

Each of these separate mobile video conference platform uses their own proprietary method of connecting users, and none of them are truly interoperable. If I have a friend with an Android phone, running Fring, there’s no way I can talk to them easily using the FaceTime video that’s native on my iPhone 4. And although Apple has made a great first step of making their FaceTime code free and open, I’m yet to see anyone major adopt it.

Of course, another major limiting factor is network speed and capacity – and frankly given the current sad state of mobile network capacity, I’m actually little bit glad that mobile video conferencing hasn’t truly hit it big yet – if people could easily use this product, it would surely bring down mobile networks even more to their knees than they already are. AT&T realized this preemptively and forced Apple to restrict FaceTime to wifi networks only – a lame stopgap until they can make their network able to handle all of their subscribers.

In order for mobile video conference to truly take off and see widespread adoption, the technology for connecting video enabled devices must be unified and interoperable. Much like the open Jabber protocol, which Google uses for Google Talk, there must be a common mobile video protocol that wins out over the rest. Being an Apple fanboy myself, I’m naturally in favor of FaceTime – however, I’d be fine with any system – as long as it’s unified.


Update*** More fragmentation: Yahoo! Messenger and ooVoo Mobile do video chat on Android, but only for a lucky few via Engadget