Friday, March 05, 2010

Google Video Chat: getting to the new world slowly

It's been a year since I wrote about Video Chat for elder parents over OS X and 17 months since I started using Google Video Chat. It's been a mixed experience since due to poor reliability and spectacularly poor usability.

Google has updated the video engine recently, and we've updated our home machines, so during a visit to my parents I retested a link between my mother and I in Montreal and Emily and Ben in St Paul.

I used the superb Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro at both ends -- it's a vast improvement over the built-in iSight cameras on my MacBook and our home i5 iMac.

My mother's home has only a 128 kpbs uplink and a 1 mbps downlink (videotron basic - it tests out near the marketed rates). I suspect our image was pretty degraded by the slow uplink, but the quality of Emily and Ben's image and voice was superb. It was a promise of things to come.

The usability remains execrably bad. Either Google is intentionally slowing adoption or they should start randomly selecting San Francisco tourists to do their user interface design. We'll know Google is serious, or has found a good tourist, when a user can save a named shortcut to their desktop, click on it, and connect to a remote client.

We're getting to the new world of high quality realtime video/voice connectivity, but it's darned slow. At the current rate we'll be there around 2012.

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