Video calling may seem a new deal in the U.S., given the stir caused by Apple’s FaceTime app on the iPhone 4. But a new Pew survey has revealed nearly 20% of Americans have already video-called someone. That sci-fi future from the movies? It’s already here.
Pew’s study questioned 3,000 adults, found that 74% of them were regularly online, and among these folk 23% have already placed a video call. 85% of those questioned owned a cell phone, and 7% of these people have already used their phone to make a video call. So in total, 19% of Americans have video-called either using the Internet or a phone.
That figure of 23% of Net users is almost certainly driven by Skype, the best-known VoIP provider, which has offered video calling option for years. It has transformed many people’s relationships–especially with increased overseas travel, and extended military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Skype’s dominance is set to be challenged by the arrival of Apple’s dedicated FaceTime system, especially since Apple is making the format open to encourage other companies to adopt it. And Yahoo is launching a new video facility in its iPhone Instant Messenger app, which will surely tempt many a video call novice. Even Cisco is trying its hand, having launched Umi–a high-definition video conferencing system that is aimed, for once, at the home user rather than enterprise.
What do we take from this? Americans know about video calling already, which means the market is fit to explode. We’d be surprised if the number of video callers in next year’s Pew survey hasn’t doubled.