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July 20, 2005
A Fragmented Instant Messaging World: An End In Skype?
I now run a bunch of instant messaging clients on my desktop, for a variety of boneheaded reasons:
- iChat - I am on the Mac, and iChat is really a cool way to interact with other Mac users, so long as they are likewise using iChat, that is. iChat also gateways to AIM and Jabber, so I use iChat as my client to talk to those worlds, but that can be less than optimal, since a number of the AIM and Jabber features don't work in iChat, or the other services don't support iChat style addresses. My handle is firstname.lastname@example.org, which various AIM services don't recognize as an AIM address, for example.
- I recently downloaded the Yahoo Messenger client, because I wanted some means to IM with Yahoo folks. I discovered that a/ the user interface is ugly, and b/ all the neato-cool features of the new Yahoo beta are not supported on Mac: that same old Windows-first approach of dissing all the Mac minority.
- I just have given up on Microsoft instant messaging solutions, primarily because of their antipathy for Mac. If they had ported Outlook to Mac, I probably would have stayed with it, since so many applications and services integrate with it (like Plaxo, for example), but I have made the jump over to Mail and iCal.
- I had tried to run various multiheaded instant messaging clients on the Mac, like Fire and Proteus, but they were maddening, so I have dropped them, at least until the time that someone comes up with a way to support more than just text interoperability. I really need audio and video.
- And then there is Skype. That has become the number two instant messaging solution for me, and often an IM chat in iChat becomes an audio call in Skype. I am considering swithching to Skype as my primary conduit, and most likely will do so when the video capability is debuted, later this year. There are several third party solutions, like vSkype and dialcom's spontania4IM, that support video, but they do not support Mac (Grrrr).
My pal, Stuary Henshall, who is perhaps the world's leading Skype head, sent me this message:
So I went to look at the Jyve Tools, and, yes, you guessed it, they only run on Windows. So I can't post the neato-cool chiclet on Get Real showing my Skype presence, as shown here.
The Apple folks ought to get with the big switch that is going on here, and make iChat integrate completely with Skype, or pay someone to build all these cool Skype related widgets for Mac. Because I think that Skype is building the kind of momentum and user base that could lead to a wholesale defection from the other services, and I for one am ready to quit.
Since Apple decided not to build a closed network of their own, nor to rely on the federated model of Jabber, they should licence Skype and build it into the next generation of iChat. Skype is already squarely in competition with Yahoo and Microsoft, given the strong push those companies are making toward VoIP in their instant messenging products, but Apple has seemingly let that battle go, choosing to not add VoIP into iChat.
So a tighter link with Apple is likely to be a good move for Skype, based on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Especially when Mac comes out with iPod Phone (including video!) and squares off with Microsoft in the looming monster battle for the living room: the little black box that will control the family's internet-based entertainment. It's going to be Apple, with the killer iPod brand and partnered with Intel, versus Microsoft's Xbox and Windows solutions. Apple lacks various key pieces of the puzzle -- like a viable game platform, instant messaging plus VoIP, and a tivo solution -- but Jobs is likely lining those pieces up.
And, just as a side effect, one outcome of that battle is likely to be consolidation of the fragmented instant messaging world. If and when someone wins that battle I believe it will be like Betamax/VHS, and the standard will become ubiquitous. Its early to call a winner, but Microsoft's flabby innovation these days when contrasted with iPod's market dominance in digital music makes me nod toward Apple. And if Skype wins big as a result, thats cool with me. I just want one buddylist, and if the government isn't going to force interoperability, llike they should, then I am rooting for an instant messaging monopoly. And please, God, don't let it be Microsoft.
, Stuart Henshall
, iPod Phone
, Yahoo Messenger
, Battle For The Livingroom
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