webcams and IM

Microsoft is making webcams now:

The new product announcements are straightforward. The US$100 model will feature a wide-angle lens with a 1.3 megapixel sensor, while the US$50 model comes without wide-angle and with a VGA resolution sensor. One interesting feature of both is a large button on the top of the cameras that users can tap to bring up instant access to a buddy list, which should make placing a call as simple as a making a couple of clicks. The whole idea of the new cameras is to make videoconferencing and blogging as simple as possible for less technically-inclined users.

This is interesting news.

Yahoo and Microsoft have signed an interoperability agreement that will let users of their IM services cross-chat. Therefore Microsoft needs to find a way to sweeten the poty to keep users on their system rather than Yahoo (or third party clients like Trillian).

I am a heavy Yahoo user. I’ve been trying for four years to make videoconferencing with Yahoo Messenger simple enough so that my parents can use it to see my daughter, but the problem is that the entire process is simply too arcane. And that’s just within the US – getting stable video across continents – to family in India and Africa, for example – is almost impossible.

Ultimately, IM (with video) needs to be as interoperable and standardized as email is today. Remember how email used to be? If you were on Prodigy or Compuserve, especially? While IM clients have come a long way, there is still a long road ahead. The interoperability of Yahoo and MSN is going to create a critical mass that will drive adoption of new standards, as well as make things easier for users who choose to stay within one company’s walled garden. After all competition benefits us all – just compare the cell phone industry to the cable television one.