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Obama gets down with his kids on Hangouts. Photo from The White House via Wikimedia Commons

Telefónica Digital aims to use WebRTC to boost 'cross-platform' video calling

Posted By TelecomTV One , 07 November 2012 | 0 Comments | (1)
Tags: Telefonica Digital Google WebRTC facetime Apple Video TokBox OpenTok

Its subsidiary, TokBox (acquired last month), is claiming a world first in bridging the iOS to everything else gap. I. D. Scales reports.

The OpenTok solution is the first open platform for building video chat applications using WebRTC-enabled browsers. The key here is "cross device" and TokBox is making much of the fact that this solution will enable iOS (Apple) devices and WebRTC-enabled browsers (or rather their users) to video chat together. The launch of OpenTok on WebRTC coincides with Google's release of Chrome 23 (its HTML5 browser). 
In effect, claims TokBox, developers will be able to use OpenTok to build independent, browser-based video applications - no clients required and an upper-cut to platform-specific video apps like Apple's Facetime. 
Google of course, which has already built a browser-based video application with its "Hangouts" on Google+ has donated much of the code for the WebRTC standard (see - "Can I help or are you just browsing?" Real Time Communications is on its way).
This could be one of those deals that look like big deals with hindsight, assuming it can be made to work reliably, which, as Hangouts seems to work at least as well as Skype, looks probable. 
So where will it fit? It enables developers to build specialised, almost ad-hoc video chat applications tailored to particular puroses. For instance, TokBox cites a golf equipment company which has built a chat kiosk using the technology to help golfers select the right balls by putting them in direct touch with a "ball-fitting expert".  
Clearly this sort of 'sudden' application has been severely hampered to now because of the fragmented video software and hardware scene.
Standard browsers all supporting WebRTC just completely open up the video chat field to - theoretically - every web site and, certainly, every social media site. 
So why is Telefonica Digital so keen to enable what's essentially an "over the top"  application which will clearly compete with the IMS-enabled communications services that you might expect its parent (Telefonica) to be much more keen on. 
It's certainly about getting ahead of the curve of course - better to be inside the tent with the winning approach even if you can't monetise it in the way you'd ideally like.
But it's also about creating a cross-device applications environment for the longer term and thereby diminishing the power of the device vendors. The most successful of which (Apple) has been able to boost its device desirability by building native apps like Facetime. This tends to boost the gadget platform which in turn pushes up the carrier handset cost.  
The competitive dynamic means the carrier is forced to radically lower the desirable smartphone's price to the customer (usually to 'free' in the UK, for instance)  in return for collecting larger service revenues over the life of the contract to make up for the high device price. As a result, claim the operators, the handset vendors are extracting the lion's share of the profits from the value chain.  (see - Executive Insight: shedding the invisibility cloak).
More cross-device applications - based on the browser - will diminish that market power and - hopefully - transfer it back to the network operator. Plus, as we've pointed out before, a more 'open' environment (on the browser rather than inside the AppStore, for instance) means that the carriers get a good chance at hooking revenues from carrier billing and other activities. 

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Executive Insight: Shedding the invisibility cloak