iChat was once the pantheon of instant messaging clients with its delicious aqua interface, no obnoxious ads (like AIM) and a simple ease-of-use that's undeniable. But since the release of iChat AV (a.k.a. version 3) the application has added features at the expense of reliability.
First came the addition of audio chat, which was novel ("can you hear me? this is so cool!"), then came the addition of video chat which had the potential to turn every Mac into a video phone. Everyone I know rushed out to buy Apple's US$149 FireWire iSight camera (myself included) just for iChat AV but it wasn't long before the number of video icons in my buddy list started to dwindle. Heck, I couldn't even bother to find and connect my iSight camera after a while. What's the point when there's no one online to chat with?
One of the most common problems I have with iChat is that I can't see someone in my Buddy List that I know is online. Often the reverse is true: I'm online and I'm on a person's buddy list but they don't see me... and that's just with text chat.
Video chat is nothing short of revolutionary - it's from The Jetson's for crying out loud! The problem is that it doesn't work. Apple's most promising feature in iChat AV is intermittent at best. Video chatting with one person is a 50/50 prospect for me. Sometimes I get the person, other times I get "insufficient bandwidth" errors or another telling me that I canceled the connection. With video conferencing my odds get worse.
I know that there are a lot of variables here and that Apple can't be responsible for everyone's NAT and router issues, but if the potential of video chat is going to be realized, Apple needs to stop resting on their laurels and put some lipstick on this pig.
It's a shame that video chat is so flaky because my MacBook Pro has a built-in camera as do the MacBook and the iMac. I wouldn't be surprised if every new Mac and monitor shipped with a built-in iSight camera from here on out since the engineering is already done. Apple needs to re-engineer iChat 4 from the ground up so that it's easier to have reliable video chats - before everyone sells their iSight cameras on eBay.
Do you use iChat AV regularly for video chats and conferences? What's your secret?
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