updated 02:25 pm EDT, Mon August 13, 2007
iPhone video conferencing
Mac programmers this weekend at the C-4 developer conference wrote an application for Apple's iPhone that enables two-way video conferencing as part of a the "Iron Coder Live" hack contest. Contestants are encouraged to develop creative hacks written with in a short period of time, and this year's theme was Apple's iPhone. "Our contest entry captures video from the iPhone's camera, compresses it, and sends it to a Web server, where it's relayed to another iPhone, and vice-versa, resulting in a nice two-way video conference," one participant wrote. "Need audio too? That's not our department but simply make a phone call to the other person's iPhone and put them on speaker phone. Then fire up our program and you're in business."
The implications of the "hack" span far beyond video conferencing, however, as one of the major complaints amongst iPhone critics is the device's lack of video recording capability. The late hack produced by developers at C-4, if modified slightly to capture video to the iPhone's built-in flash memory rather than forwarding the data along to a Web server, would enable iPhone users to capture video in real-time.
Several barriers still remain however before iPhone owners could use their handsets as digital video recorders. As yet the iPhone lacks a file system which would allow users to access, rename, move, and delete files. Additionally, the video recording software would need to integrate audio support via the iPhone's built-in microphone in order to truly mimic the functionality of a DVR. While these changes are a distinct possibility from third-party developers, Apple has said nothing regarding its plans on video support for its cellphone and has forbidden third-party developers from creating software that runs natively on the device.
Still further, Apple has signed an exclusive agreement with cellular carrier AT&T to provide connectivity for all iPhone users, locking customers into service plans with AT&T as their only option. Currently the iPhone only supports AT&T's slower Edge network, which is only slightly faster than dialup. This speed limitation effectively eliminates the possibility of would-be video conference participants on-the-go, while iPhone users within range of a Wi-Fi network can achieve much higher speeds that are capable of supporting video conferencing.