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February 24 2014


December 19 2013

Apple Adds FaceTime Audio To OS X 10.9.2 Beta, Bringing Native Mac-To-iOS Voice Calls Closer
facetime-audioApple has issued a new developer preview of OS X, version 10.9.2, and it introduces some interesting new features according to 9to5Mac. The most interesting is probably FaceTime Audio, however. Apple introduced VoIP calling (no video required) to FaceTime in iOS 7 on mobile devices, but this marks its first appearance on the desktop.
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September 23 2013

FaceTime Audio Is Apple's Biggest Little Feature Addition In iOS 7
Quietly, gradually, but clearly Apple is building platform lock-in into its iOS products, with some features that are deeper than just a rich third-party software ecosystem. FaceTime Audio is the latest of these, VoIP calling built on the back of its FaceTime video chat service, which is tightly integrated to the phone app to make placing free international calls almost a pleasant surprise for those looking to connect with far-flung loved ones. FaceTime Audio joins iMessage as another reason to sign on with the Apple camp and get an iPhone or iPad device, and then never to depart again. It’s a little odd to see it arrive so much later than FaceTime’s video calling feature, but the reversal of feature rollout makes a lot of sense ; audio-only calls are uncomfortably close to standard phone calls, which is still one of the sole remaining areas that carriers control. Apple delivering FaceTime Audio later, as an update to its original FaceTime service probably allowed it more time to mollify carrier partners, and the climate has changed around mobile software and services, too. There’s a new emphasis on data, and OEMs helping carriers drive sales of their own data products, so in that context Apple’s VoIP ambitions are less of a land grab and more of a helpful addition that furthers everyone’s goals. For many users, FaceTime Audio is going to be nothing short of a revelation. Already, it’s my most-used new feature in iOS 7 with the exception maybe of Control Center. It helps that I’m currently in a different country than most of my friends and family, but it’s not like mine is an isolated case. And unlike in the U.S., carriers in other countries like Canada charge long distance for calling outside of your town or city, let alone for those calls across international borders. Critics will say that services like Google’s Gmail calling and Skype have offered free international or long-distance calling for years, but Apple’s service is integrated directly into a user’s Phone, Contacts, Messages and FaceTime apps, which they’re already comfortable using, and doesn’t require having a separate account or third-party app open. That makes an immense difference in terms of barriers to usage for people who may not be all that technologically savvy. My less expert family members are already extremely comfortable with FaceTime Audio and how it works, not even a week into the

July 09 2011


Gillmor Gang 7.09.11 (TCTV)

The Gillmor Gang — Michael Arrington, Dan Farber, Robert Scoble, and Steve Gillmor — enjoyed @scobleizer’s FaceTime tour of Florida’s abandoned Kennedy Space Center in the aftermath of the last shuttle launch. The countdown clock sat frozen amid a sea of media trailers and the huge Twitter Live Assembly building. No, wait; that was where FriendFeed stood until Google + was launched last week.

Google + should buy Twitter, suggested @arrington from his retirement center in the Pacific NorthWest. Having immediately shut down its live stream to Google the day after Plus went public, it seems unlikely Jack and Dick (and Ev and Alice for that matter) are any closer to selling. As the ghost of Walter Cronkite peered down from the “permanent” CBS News bunker, CBSNewsOnline editor in chief @dbfarber schooled @arrington on the news of the day. We all got a little older. And that’s the way it was.

July 02 2011


Gillmor Gang 7.2.11 (TCTV)

The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, John Borthwick, Kevin Marks, and Steve Gillmor — joined the Circle Game as channelled by Joni Mitchell and Tom Rush. Google + seems to be a hit, which means it is soon to reach the critical mass where all social software must graduate from high school to beyond. For now, the service appears like a broader reimplementation of Friendfeed, which some of us felt was truncated not by the users but by the Facebook acquisition. In other words, for some that reinvention is a good thing.

For @borthwick, the project is a substantial undertaking for a company we’ve been trivializing in recent months along with its stock price. For @scobleizer, it means the battle between reach and rich, this time in social circles as Google defines graphs. For @kevinmarks, plenty of work ahead but a strong effort. For @stevegillmor, well, you’ll have to watch the show. But a hint: +1s to Twitter, FaceTime, and whoever makes new mistakes fast.

May 01 2011


Flash in the Pan

The news from NBC/Universal/Comcast is that the cable giant has finally made deals with both ABC and Fox to carry selected shows on their on-demand service. This is big news for the iPad set, because all four major broadcast networks are now available in a single service, on the iPad, without Flash.

Across town we hear talk of hardware acceleration linking up with Android to make Flash finally usable on every other device. This would be a good thing for Flash fans, who can make the argument that more devices will work with Flash than won’t. But in the new world of network broadcasting, the show’s over for Flash. Nobody cares what makes the picture dance on the screen, just that it does.

Instead, we care whether it streams or it doesn’t. Live streaming may seem to be about Ustream v. YouTube, about watching the Wedding or GaGa or whatever trending stream is hitting your push notification buffer. But it’s also about your own personal broadcast stream, formerly known as the telephone. Video calls are finally here, and the broadcasters who dithering too long about iPad streaming will be in the same kind of trouble Microsoft is in with Windows.

The same way that we don’t care about Flash, we don’t care about the distinction between streaming phone calls and on-demand shows. One is about some idiot wasting your time, and the other… Same thing. The same dynamics that Comcast has finally ratified are moving into the phone call. Cable subs are up for those who support iPad access, down for those who don’t. Time Warner and Cablevision softened up the studios, and Comcast came in and closed.

Similarly, FaceTime softened up the carriers by introducing a service that obliterated the need for international plans. Those of us who switched to Verizon are out of luck until iPhone 5 anyway for a global phone, so the calculation on a trip to Europe is to get a throwaway phone for the trip from the airport to the hotel and WiFi. And before you say that FaceTime doesn’t work over 3G, Skype video does. The next time you Update All on your iPhone, you’ll see what I mean.

On this week’s Gillmor Gang, Danny Sullivan suggests it’s an extra download and besides people don’t want to have to put on makeup to answer the phone (I’m paraphrasing, or just trying to embarrass Danny gratuitously, or maybe myself for carrying blush at all times.) Twitter is an extra download for now, but the second they jump on video calls using their directory this will be a feature not a hassle.

When the smaller market of international travelers becomes enamored of video calls, we see another Netflix-style hockey stick. WiFi becomes a differentiator for choice of hotel and event venues, for coffee shops and restaurants, for sporting events and rock concerts. All of a sudden your phone and tablet becomes your portal to personal and professional incoming pings, a push notification router filtered by your business and location rules.

How long did it take for Comcast to make this deal? Time Warner released its iPad software less than two months ago, were sued by Comedy Central a week later, and were fast followed by Cablevision as though to say, no we really mean this, 10 days after that. It became clear in a New York minute that people wanted more stuff for their new iPad 2′s, and oh wait, iPad 2′s have a camera. Then ABC, the last of the original big three, capitulates to Comcast, and oh, wait, that’s Steve Jobs’ network.

Why would Jobs want to play the Disney card now, except for the fact that iPad 2 sales are going to skyrocket once the pipeline recovers from not being able to make them fast enough. You only have to experience a Skype video call once to want FaceTime to work over 3G, and Skype is softening up the carriers just as they move off flat rate to a profit center for streaming. You may not have been paying attention to the 5 gig limit before now, but the Comcast on-demand steaming at home and Skype push notifications on the go will stoke demand, as it were.

Apple already is making the case for a Comcast moment with the carriers by rudely interrupting Skype calls when a carrier call comes in. The Skype call is put on hold (at least on Verizon) and you have to cancel the push notification and decline the incoming call before returning to your video call. Perhaps Jobs is looking for some competition from AT&T to differentiate from Verizon as they have done with simultaneous call and data. Perhaps the lure of selling a higher priced video cap will close the deal.

Android has a real problem here that Google is attempting to fix by offering on-demand video over YouTube. Android’s video service is just now making its way into some builds, but the combination of pro and amateur streaming video offered by Apple will be hard to overcome. Not that it needs to be, because compatibility between the two major platforms will come at the cost of paving over Flash permanently.

March 02 2011


Apple Now Owns (But Still Doesn’t Own

When Apple first announced its video calling application FaceTime on June 7, 2010 at the WWDC event, in conjunction with the iPhone 4, it quickly became apparent that there was a potential trademark conflict with a company called FaceTime Communications.

But Apple struck a deal with the company to transfer said trademark over to them, and FaceTime Communications subsequently changed its company name to Actiance.

As of very recently, ownership of the domain name was also transferred over to the Cupertino company. It doesn’t resolve to an Apple-operated website yet, but it’s definitely now owned by the company, as the WHOIS records show. Unlike

Back in late January 2010, I wrote that Apple didn’t own a single iPad related domain name.

Fast forward 13 months, and they still don’t.

Out of Cupertino’s hands, at least for the time being:,,,,,,,, and To name but a few.

They also don’t own, or or anything like that, in case you were wondering.

It’s not that Apple doesn’t care about domain names. It paid heavily for back in 2007, and it owns,,, etc. (but not, curiously). Run a search on UDRPsearch and you will find that Apple regularly fights to (re)gain control over relevant domain names that carry one of their trademarks – which it doesn’t have for ‘iPad’ (yet), just to be clear.

Run a search for now, and you’ll notice Apple has yet to oppose the ownership of the domain name, even though it now actually does own the trademark (Apple actually acquired the rights to the term from Fujitsu in March 2010).

I have no idea why they haven’t made an attempt to claim rights over ownership of the domain name so far. It’s entirely possible that they’ve tried to acquire the domain name directly from the owner, but this person has stopped responding to my emails entirely so I’m unaware of any negotiations between Apple and the registrant of (Enero 6 Corp).

Either way, Apple clearly has plans for The timing is, of course, interesting.

Later today, the company is expected to unveil the second generation of its popular tablet computer, and it’s likely to boast a front-facing camera for FaceTime video calling.

A few more hours, and we’ll know what’s up.

October 20 2010


Download The OS X Facetime Beta Right Now

Apple took just a few quick minutes during its Back To The Mac event today to announce Facetime on OS X. The release seems only natural as most Macs have had an integrated web camera for years and this type of vertical integration is Apple’s claim to fame. Of course they were going to bring the service full circle and the only question was really when it would launch.

Steve Jobs didn’t spend that much time on the announcement, mainly because it’s rather simple. So simple that there was only a quick demo and it works like you would expect — nice and simple. Best of all, Mac users can download the beta right now.


Apple Adds Facetime to Macs [Update: Official]

Apple is busy running through all the new bells and whistles of iLife. It’s actually quite boring. But if you look close when the demo machine shows its dock, there’s a Facetime icon present, which seems to state that video chat service is coming to a Mac near you real soon.

Now this isn’t official yet. Steve-O hasn’t came out and said “Apple is adding Facetime to Macs” yet. But he will. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a Facetime icon in the dock of the demo machine. Follow our liveblog and you’ll see.

Update: It’s official now.

Tags: TC Apple facetime

July 22 2010


FacePlant: An App To Tell You When You Can Actually Use FaceTime

If you have an iPhone 4, you’ve probably had this problem: you really want to use FaceTime, but there are simply not a lot of opportunities to use it. Sure, one problem is that both parties need an iPhone 4 currently. But perhaps even more annoying is that you have no way of knowing which of your friends with iPhone 4s are actually connected to WiFi so they can use FaceTime. That’s where a new app, FacePlant, comes in.

FacePlant is a third-party application that shows you which of your friends is available to have FaceTime calls with you. The app integrates with your contact list on your iPhone so you simply load it up and it will display which of your friends both have iPhone 4 and are connect to WiFi to make FaceTime calls. It’s an idea that’s so obvious that it’s hard to believe Apple didn’t think of this.

Obviously, there’s one big catch to this: both you and your friends have to have FacePlant installed and running. Luckily, FacePlant takes full advantage of iOS 4 to be able to run in the background. So you can open it and forget about it. If a friend wants to FaceTime with you, you’ll simply be pinged just as you normally would for a FaceTime call.

With the app you can also record and leave video messages for other FacePlant users (perfect if they’re not on WiFi, for example). Given that the team behind this app is also the team behind the short video messaging service, 12seconds, this functionality shouldn’t be too surprising.

And yes, there’s a privacy mode which you can enter if you don’t want to be bothered at certain times with FaceTime requests.

Again, this idea seems so obvious that it’s a little hard to fathom that Apple didn’t think of this. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they do eventually do some kind of status indicator along these lines. But for now, FacePlant is the way to go — assuming Apple approves it, of course.

Founder Sol Lipman says the app is currently in the review process, but doesn’t expect any issues to get in the way of its approval. If it does get approved, you can be sure Apple is going to want to promote this one to tout FaceTime even more than they already have.

The app will be a free download in the App Store. Lipman says the plan to make money will come farther down the road with some premium features that users will be able to purchase.

Below, watch a video I shot with Lipman talking about the app.

July 12 2010


Apple Rolls Out Four More iPhone 4 Ads — Each About FaceTime

Yesterday, I broke down Apple’s minute-long FaceTime commercial for iPhone 4, noting how it seemed almost as if Don Draper from the hit AMC show Mad Men had created it. Now Apple has four other 30-second spots for the iPhone 4 that it has just put into rotation on national television. And yes, they’re all about FaceTime too.

The four spots are titled, “Smile,” “Meet Her,” “Haircut,” and “Big News.” Each revolve around situations where FaceTime can dramatically improve what would normally be more traditional phone calls. They’re not quite as dramatic as the overall package of the longer original commercial (nor are they as good). But two of them still go straight for the heart strings. While the other two are more everyday conversations made better by video.

  • “Smile” finds a girl talking to her father on the iPhone 4, but she refuses to smile. He finally stats singing, which makes her smile, and it reveals her new braces.
  • “Meet Her” involves a son showing his father his new granddaughter for the first time. The grandfather gets choked up.
  • “Haircut” has a girlfriend calling a boyfriend to show off her new short haircut. Rather than having to describe it, she can actually show it. The boyfriend agrees it is short, but loves it.
  • “Big News” is the closest to the original one. In it, a wife calls a husband to give him some big news: she’s pregnant.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that Apple is playing up FaceTime in each of its first five commercials — it is the easiest new feature to show off on the device. Apple’s new Retina display for the iPhone 4 is arguably more impressive, but it would be hard to show that off in a commercial without explaining it (and Apple seems to prefer to show rather than tell in these types of commercials).

Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if in future iPhone 4 commercials, Apple figures out a way to show off the screen (something like, “wow, it’s like looking at a picture”), as well as show off the impressive build quality of the device, and perhaps the HD video taking capabilities.

Find each of the new spots below.

[thanks aaalison]

July 03 2010


FaceTime and Why Apple’s Massive Integration Advantage is Just Beginning

Editor’s note: Guest author Steve Cheney is an entrepreneur and formerly an engineer & programmer specializing in web and mobile technologies. His last guest post was on Why Mobile Innovation Is Blowing Away PCs

The success of iPhone 4 has been astonishing to witness, despite the antenna issues, proving once again that Apple has a unparalleled ability to differentiate around design and integration, not simply “features.”

Perhaps the best example of this so far is FaceTime, Apple’s take on video-calling. FaceTime makes video-calling on the Android-based Sprint HTC EVO look silly, because the EVO awkwardly requires users to sign up and download a third-party app, then launch it every time they want to talk. Normal people simply won’t do this.

Apple eliminated this friction by innovating at the confluence of hardware and software—hit one button mid-call and the feature just works. It really is amazing (yes, I am channeling Steve Jobs).

But FaceTime is just a teaser of Apple’s deep integration capabilities. Below the surface of hardware / software, Apple is on the cusp of differentiating on a much deeper level, a result of its strategy to vertically integrate at the component level. The advantages of integrating so deeply are subtle but incredibly powerful.

Feature Bloat in Components Benefits Apple:

I recently discussed why innovation in mobile is happening at an unprecedented pace. One primary driver is incredible component innovation.

But this rapid innovation—which is good overall—causes a negative byproduct: “feature bloat.”  The HTC EVO, which crams in 4G wireless, epitomizes this best (sorry, but mobile 4G is not ready for primetime, and I firmly believe Apple won’t even include it on next year’s iPhone 5).

The temptation for companies to differentiate via features is a virtuous cycle: component vendors (Broadcom, TI, Qualcomm) compete aggressively based on integration levels. Handset OEMs like HTC push vendors to release features prematurely, and they make component decisions based on availability of bleeding edge (but often buggy) technology.

This leads to a “kitchen sink” mentality, which conflicts with customer development frameworks, ironically driving a maximum feature set. Pressure from handset OEMs is a driver, but component vendors also tend to use competitive analysis to shape their marketing requirements. Steve Blank made some excellent insights into why this leads to feature bloat. The poor reviews of the HTC EVO are proof that—though alluring—additional features don’t always speak to consumers. Especially when they kill your battery overnight.

Apple thinks much differently about adding features. While the HTCs of the world “differentiate” blindly based on available technology, Apple innovates only when it can create a superior, well-integrated user experience.

Right now this virtuous cycle of feature bloat is accelerating in system-on-chip (SoC) development for the reasons I outlined above. And Apple is poised to sidestep it by vertically integrating and producing chips which mirror its minimalist product strategy.

Supply-Chain Transparency is an Enormous Unspoken Benefit for Apple:

Perhaps even more powerful is an unspoken advantage afforded to Apple’s SoC designers: vertical integration gives them explicit knowledge of what’s happening across the entire component ecosystem and value-chain.

How? Every component vendor in the world visits Cupertino to share its “secret” roadmap—despite the fact that Apple now competes in SoC development. The dangling carrot of an Apple design win simply outweighs any aversion to sharing. This transparency from other chip makers is extremely powerful, since handset OEMs plan several generations out (e.g. Apple is undoubtedly in concept stages with iPhone 6 and the A6).

Apple can learn Broadcom’s chip plans and mull over whether to bring portions of the digital logic related to GPS and WiFi on to the A6. New technologies like NFC for payments—bring in-house or purchase discrete? There are dozens of permutations, each with design challenges, benefits, and risks.

By extracting data from suppliers, Apple’s chip team has a feedback loop into product planning. All of this collective wisdom adds up, helping Apple decide what to roll-up, buy, license, or outsource. Imagine seeing your competition’s entire feature roadmap, and then planning your own SoC strategy. It’s like seeing your neighbor’s wife naked, and deciding afterward whether you’re interested, even though you’re already married.

Cisco has used a similar vertical integration strategy to its benefit in the enterprise for many years (Broadcom and Marvell pitch Ethernet fabrics despite the fact that Cisco builds its own switch chips). But in mobile, Apple is the only company who owns all three elements of the value-chain—hardware, software and chip components (outside of Samsung). Nokia divested its component division to STMicro, and Ericsson and Motorola spun off theirs as well.

As multicore ARM-based chips accelerate, and as software / hardware integration becomes more of a differentiator, Apple engineering teams will out-innovate competitors at the intersection of these three levels (again, antenna issues aside). It’s much more difficult for Google, Motorola, and others to cross-pollinate information from their own independent silos.

In tomorrow’s smartphone wars, this transparency into the entire mobile value-chain will give Apple an incredibly powerful advantage. This strategic implication wasn’t lost on Steve Jobs when he made the decision to vertically integrate and compete with the giants in the semiconductor world.

Fact is, Apple is a company run by brilliant strategists and user experience designers, not engineers. They know that deep component, hardware, and software integration gives Apple an enduring advantage as mobile platforms evolve. Which is why Apple will undoubtedly produce more devices and features that become huge hits like iPhone 4 and FaceTime.

June 25 2010


Don’t Have Any Friends? Call 1-888-FACETIME to Test Facetime On the iPhone 4

The biggest problem with testing Facetime is the dearth of real, hard-core nerds out there with iPhone 4s. I’ve been able to talk to Greg and my buddy Tom, but that’s about it.

Now, however, you can call 1-888-FACETIME (188832238463) and talk to an Apple rep live over Facetime. They’re available from 8am to 8pm CDT. I tried it. It actually works.
Read more…

Tags: TC facetime

June 24 2010


Jobs On FaceTime Replacing Hold Button: “Hold Doesn’t Do Anything More Than Mute”

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, one of the big new features of the iPhone 4 is FaceTime, the video chatting functionality. If you’re on a call with another iPhone 4 user (and both of you are connected to WiFi), you’ll see a new FaceTime button in the bottom row of the call options. But as some people have noticed, this new button replaces the “Hold” button found on all other iPhones. So how do you put a call on hold now? One reader, Jonathan Cowperthwait, emailed Steve Jobs today to find out.

Less than two hours later, he got a response. (Apparently, Jobs is on top of his emails even on days when he’s launching a massive new product.) In typical Jobs fashion, here’s his answer:

Hold doesn’t do anything more than Mute.

There you go.

Of course, that begs the question: than why is there a hold option on any iPhone? That may be the subject of another email.

June 07 2010

FaceTime: video chat on the iPhone 4
The future has officially arrived, ladies and gentlemen: El Steve just made a video call to Jony Ive as part of his famous "One more thing" sequence of the Apple WWDC.
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