Yesterday I received an email from SightSpeed announcing
On May 24, 2006, SightSpeed will release the next version of our award-winning video calling service. This new release will include significant new beta features, including SightSpeed Phone Out, which you can use to make great quality, low-cost telephone calls from your PC or Mac.
- SightSpeed expands its voice capability from pure ‘VoIP to VoIP” to “VoIP to PSTN” (Phone Out launched yesterday) and “PSTN to VoIP” (PhoneIn to be introduced soon).
- Rates for calls within North America are 2 cents per minute; rates to Europe start at 2 cents per minute but vary by country and modality (land line or mobile)
- Ability to make voice only calls (no video required)
- Improved video via a beta codec
- Enhanced Contact List Display options
I have followed SightSpeed since it was first introduced as a high quality video service at Fall Comdex 2003. From the initial press release:
SightSpeed Web matches the speed of the telephone, delivering audio/visual synchronicity at 30 frames per second through patented, human perception-based technology that is based on more than seven years of research at Cornell University.
SightSpeed has always been recognized for its video quality. It has also always had a VoIP capability for those who had headsets to use it as audio accompaniment to the video. Their “SightSpeed Pro” service offers additional features such as multi-party voice and video conferencing for up to 4 participants. Unfortunately not many of my acquaintances were enamored enough to make it a viable communications service I could routinely use. And I did not find a real need to use their Video Messenger service; but that may just be me.
But SightSpeed also has a Mac version. With this new release SightSpeed has the potential to become the leading service offering combined video and PSTN phone connectivity on MacBooks equipped with the built-in iSight video camera. If this takes off in the Mac community — where there is a strong viral market user base — it would give Skype some significant competition at the video level. Purely a question of “how long can a User wait” before s/he absolutely has to have instant messaging video?
I have done the upgrade; turns out the Phone feature is a Beta version — and it shows. For instance in the country calling rates list one sees “Canada-Alberta” but what about the rest of Canada? When I check out my own (Canadian) phone number it says I am in the USA. Nice to see that Skype recognizes the difference (and puts Canadian flags with Canadian phone numbers). Seems like there are definitely infrastructure issues to smooth out yet.
Will be interesting to see how (or whether) they deal with Skype’s free calling within North America. More to follow as I get more experience with it.