iPod Touch4 and #FaceTime – This Disruption is Going to Hurt Google.

September 15, 2010

in iphone, iPhone Developers, Mobility, Skype + VoIP, Skype Journal, Social Networks, VoIP

Over the weekend  Andy Abramson received his new iPod Touch 4 in the mail. Apple’s New iPod touch Part One-VoIP on the iPod – VoIP Watch. What he’s yet to reveal is his experience with FaceTime – Apple’s new video call solution which I’ve written a series of posts on. We had our FaceTime call yesterday and I learned a few things.

1. iPhone 4 Upgrades Required: I had to upgrade my iPhone4 to iOS4.1 to enable FaceTime calls with the new iPodTouch4. When Andy tried to connect with me he received a message that I hadn’t yet upgraded to 4.1. Upgrading came at some cost to me. Loss of my jailbreak and SIM unlock, use of my iPhone4 as a hotspot using MiFi and FaceTime calls over 3G using My3G. Still, the incentive remains for the jailbreak community and I expect a new solution before long. An iPod Touch user needs an iPhone4 user’s phone number to currently contact them.
2. Email not Phone Numbers: As we knew the iPod Touch comes without a phone number.  And you can add multiple emails. See picture below. Right now this same functionality is not available in the iPhone4. Although you can add email ID’s to Game center so I imagine they will merge in time. This article explains in more detail. This highlights the need for a basic presence system and further ID management. Eg which profiles do I want to make available and to whom? This is the future for CallerID. It’s also the step necessary to make FaceTime available on almost any device; there are already plenty of rumors that it will overlay iChat and come to Windows etc.

3. Access Manager Future: FaceTime become more useful when “email-numbers” come to the iPhone4 . Emails equate to different profiles and Apple just becomes your identity manager for escalating conversations. Location-based escalations will take on new meaning. Here Apple’s been really smart – they’ve borrowed both email and phone numbers and without adding another ID layer are simply moving towards offering an “access management” solution for any profile. I’m waiting for “myprofilemanager”.
4. ADD SMS to the iPod: I added and experimented with an SMS app on my iPhone4. “TextFree” (and others) provides you with another number to receive SMS’s on. So the quickest free way to give your new iPod Touch a phone number (SMS only) is adopt one of these APPs. Free unlimited Text in the US etc. Probably not perfect although my quick tests suggested it worked quite well. TextFree supports notifications – so all you need is your iPod Touch in a WiFi zone. Or as Andy noted in our conversation… Just use your iPod Touch with a MiFi mobile hotspot and do all your FaceTime and texting for free over 3G. That’s the future and it’s one where the carrier has zero control over your number, minutes or even SMS.
5. What next? There are many opportunities. Eg auto create a contact list of FaceTime users. Add some “available indicator”. Create a parallel SMS channel (it’s already there – Apple’s notification server” we just don’t see it like that. Add in FaceTime notifications to the messaging stream and make that more manageable!.

The rollout of FaceTime is currently the most interesting and aggressive VoIP project anywhere. FaceTime is “Apple’s Startup”. Later next year, expect profiles and developer opportunities re CallerID’s while your “dating site” etc works in the background. This will mean a change to notifications. Notifications will add in Call options – it will become the communications manager. While Apple didn’t get Facebook to sync with their new GameCenter. I’m sure it will come. In fact FaceTime may also revolutionize the “mobile news” stealing Skype’s thunder when integrated with Twitter. If I was Apple I’d be working on both of these. When @stuarthenshall becomes +stuarthenshall I accept or decline a FaceTime call. Or *stuarthenshall for an “unlisted” call request via Twitter. New API’s will make this type of thing simple.

This story isn’t all told yet – more random thoughts:
The iPod Touch is becoming the “multi-faceted phone”. In some experiments people have put the same email account into two iPod touches. Like Skype, both ring and only one can be answered. I wrote about why that sort of thing was brilliant when Skype launched vs IM clients that always logged you out. This capability will only become even more interesting. So we’re moving towards a point where, when FaceTime rings your mobile, it will also ring your desktop, iPad, iPod etc. Any device you want. Finally we are “names” not numbers!

The iPodTouch4 as the home phone or even a work phone becomes better and better. (See my post FaceTime and the Enterprise). You can already turn your GoogleVoice account into a home number (for free). You can also use TextFree or the equivalent for free SMS calls. Note Calls to your TextFree number result in a notification and the number that called. Add Skype too. Let all this stuff run in the background and keep it in a dock! Otherwise the battery may not last very long. All you need is WiFi and you can route anything to it. Thus the MiFi hotspot challenge for the carriers and cable providers. When wifi anywhere is good enough the user takes control.

Where Facetime may shine is when AirPlay emerges if it works to stream FaceTime over AppleTV. Will that be in the iOS4.2 announcement?

When Apple made your mobile phone number into ‘FaceTime’, it created its own value stream out of the carriers’ most important asset. Now Apple is offering to enable your email accounts to do the same thing. Next they let developers do it for any social networking site and connect them up to FaceTime. On the behavioral side – this puts Skype and GTalkVideo into a mobile format where they simply aren’t today. Mobile video calling even limited to WiFi beats the desktop for all short Video sessions. FaceTime is from a consumer perspective “cross platform” with only one device required to manage multiple identities.

In October 2007 I wrote Why VoIP Innovation Died with Skype In it I wrote: “Skype has four possible plays which it failed to capitalize on 1)Directory, 2)SIP & Identity, 3)API 4)Presence” Apple has all these elements in play. Apple will remain the facilitator if they expect to be really successful. Apple’s prize is all the social networks and directories coming to FaceTime first. Match, Craigslist etc. Few guesses Apple will first open it to developers and then open it more broadly to Android, Nokia etc. WHY? Because “call” and “video” interruptions are the most intrusive and valuable escalations that happen on a mobile. When Apple knows I call a car dealer Apple has the ad engine capability to make real money. Add in location. Many variations are possible. FaceTime needs to go everywhere and infect every handset and desktop. Most importantly…. Apple has no urgency on monetizing this direction. It’s not IM and it’s not a phone number. Today it’s just the evolutionary step that is next.

I wrote other clues too. “Communications is Fragmenting. Oct 2008. I see FaceTime following that brief. I also wrote “Blogging Lifestreams and My Personal Cloud” Jan 2010 where I made reference to “Unlike yesterday… conversations that matter lie outside your buddylist or following list.”  F2F hasn’t died and FaceTime is likely to bring it closer and to a geo-location near you. Add in Qik like broadcast capabilities or watching games in action and it could go a whole lot further.

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