What is Apple actually doing with “facetime”?

So, Apple introduced “facetime” with the new iPhone. A lot of critics came out swinging after the keynote, ridiculing Jobs for adding something to a phone that was never used for several years on basically every other device on the market.

I felt the same. Video calling? Only on Apple devices? Only via wifi? Thanks, Steve, that’s awesome.

Today I realized that it’s probably something else. It’s not only about using your phone for video calls, rather, it’s about establishing a new standard for voice/video chats. Just as Apple introduced bonjour in 10.4 to make computers communicate (and using it as a backbone for iChat), it is now trying to establish facetime as the actual chat protocol to allow for a deeper video/audio/chat/collaboration experience. According to a rather short wikipedia article, the facetime protocol is based on a couple of open standards that made me scratch my head:

Source: Wikipedia

Audio and video make total sense. SIP as a voice protocol is pretty straightforward as well, but the last two are the most revealing: technology to traverse firewalls and technology to deliver media streams via VOIP. Through this, screen sharing should be in there at some point, probably tightly integrated into OSX. Overall, Apple wants to eclipse Skype, which is one of the most used chat and VOIP apps on Macs. The main point is the usual Apple way of going into new markets: making stuff simple and easy to use (traversing firewalls is pretty important in this case).

Of course Apple is also keeping everything close to its chest by orchestrating the open source development. This is probably going to look a lot like Chrome/Android, where Google makes the best implementation themselves and adds to the OS project in a major way.

So, there you go. The cheesy video is just for fun, the big stuff comes later. Let’s see if I am right in a couple of months.

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  1. Facetime is built upon many industry recognized open standards – It's quite possible that apple will try to make a move in the video-conferencing/telepresence market.
    The day that we would use our iPhone to communicate with a telepresence room might approach us faster than we think.
    You can read more about facetime standards here – http://blog.imtc.org/index.php/2010/06/09/the-t

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