I frequently get grief from my friends, family and colleagues for always having 8-10 ichat windows open, but I like to keep the threads in front of me, and I find iChat a great way to communicate. And, no, I don't like the tabbed chat clients; I like having the windows splayed across the screen.
So you'd think I'd have jumped on the video iChat bandwagon long ago, especially considering how much I travel. But, no, I waited until last week to pick up an iSight, and brought it with me to China to see how it would do. In short, it rocks.
My first video iChat was with my family. Naturally, my kids had iSights before I did...so they were all set up. Seeing them in living color from over 5,000 miles away was great - I could show them the view of the Shanghai skyline from my hotel window, and I got to see how my daughter had recovered from her recent cold. Everyone misses each other less, and the stress of distance is an order of magnitude smaller.
More amazing, though, was the casualness of it all. My son wanted to know how to hook his laptop up to the TV, so he just called me up on video iChat and we went over it. He could show me the cables he had, and I could tell him which to use. 5000 miles of video conferencing, through the "Great Firewall", for free. No wonder the telcos are afraid of Network Neutrality - who needs overseas voice at exhorbitant rates (or even cheap rates) when you get video for free?
My next chat was with Bill Schreiner of AOL, who decided to surprise me by confrencing in Melanie Graham, who we used to work with at The Groundlings. I hadn't seen or talked to Melanie in years, but it was great to see that she hasn't changed, and that after her time writing for Saturday Night Live and working on The Osbournes, she's now a "suit" at MTV, and as funny as ever. Bill and Melanie and I talked for a half hour, with Bill in Reston and Melanie in LA, and I assure you it was more entertaining than anything on Shanghai TV. And, again, the telcos didn't make a dime on it...nor did anyone else.
As for Apple, this is one of those times where the integration of hardward and software makes so much sense. Sure, the Sony Vaios had integrated cameras over five years ago, but without integrated video chat (and broadband, though I'm told one can have an acceptable iChat video experience over dialup), they were a gimmick that as far as I know no one used. You plug it in, and it just works.
Only problem is, if I ever leave for a trip again without remembering the iSight, I'll be in deep s...