ACN IRIS 3000 Videophone & The State of the Videophone

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Tom Keating
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ACN IRIS 3000 Videophone & The State of the Videophone

acn-iris-3000-videophone.jpg I've come across the new ACN IRIS 3000 videophone a few times recently and thought I'd write about them. I'm a big fan of videophones even if there doesn't seem to be any true adoption of industry standards that lets one videophone talk/video to another. Not to mention I reported first how Vonage's OEM'ed videophone, VisiFone, from Viseon hit the scrap heap due to Viseon's implosion. I was hoping to see Vonage's VisiFone interoperate with Packet8's Videophone, which I reviewed back in 2004. Back then Packet8 was the last broadband videophone service provider left standing, but it now appears that ACN has recently jumped onboard the videophone wagon. I hope they do well. Although videophone deployment has been slow to take off, I think offering subsidized, low-cost, or even free videophones to VoIP customers is one way of differentiating yourself from your competitors, especially if you are a single play provider like Vonage or Packet8 going up against Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, etc. that offer Triple Play packages.

If the single play providers were smart, they'd take my advice and make their videophones interoperate. Forget trying to hold your customers hostage by forcing them to stay with your service in order to keep their videophone capabilities. A customer that signs up with ACN and gets the videophone should not only be able to videocall Packet8 videphones, he should also be able to leave ACN, join Packet8's service and continue to use his videophone. With standards such as SIP, H.264, etc. there's absolutely no reason why videophone shouldn't interoperate. Further, with mobile phones increasingly adding more processing horsepower, and embedded cameras, making 2-way video calls from a Windows Mobile phone or Apple iPhone should be quite feasible. It's all about the standards, baby!

This locking of the videophone reminds me of this nugget from my 2006 VoIP Predictions:
VoIP providers will continue to harp that the government shouldn't impose any regulations on VoIP and that the industry should be open & free, while simultaneously VoIP providers will continue to alienate their customers by password-protecting and locking the customer's ATA (analog telephony adaptor), thus preventing customers from easily switching to another VoIP provider and using the same ATA. This is hypocrisy at its worst! Customers will continue to be left with useless ATA "bricks" which eventually will make it the local landfill when they switch to a better VoIP provider.

Analysis: (correct) Unfortunately, more VoIP service providers are still locking their ATAs even though they often charge you a $50 or more cancellation fee if you cancel within 1 year. Often their rational for the cancellation fee is that they give you the hardware for free and therefore since they have to "subsidize" the hardware costs they need to recoup the investment. I say if you are going to charge me $50 to recoup your losses, that's fine, but unlock the damn ATA!

packet8-videophone-retail-box.jpg I contacted Huw Rees VP Sales and Marketing for 8x8, Inc. who operate the Packet8 service to get his take on videophone adoption and industry standards.

Huw stated, "Approximately 5% of our residential subscribers are videophone users. Our implementation is standard SIP to the latest RFC, so as long as someone conforms to this standard our phones will interoperate." Huw added, "A good example of this is that we interoperate with Counterpath's soft client. We have recently re-positioned the videophone as a device for use in SMBs rather than just residential and we have seen some significant increase in sales in this segment, but overall the numbers are still fairly small compared to the market for voice services."

5% is more than I thought. I was guessing around 2% customer penetration. So looks like 8x8/Packet8 has made some in-roads. Glad to heard they're targeting the SMBs with their videophone product. Since Packet8's videophone is standards-based as others adopt industry standards this will only help the videophone market.

In any event, ACN's IRIS 3000 Videophone features a large 7-inch digital screen, a light-adjusting camera sensor, digital photo frame for displaying photos, downloadable ringtones, and built-in videomail. It also supports DECT 6.0 Uniden cordless phones and the ability to get news, weather, sports, and other online content. According to their promo video you can also hook up Homeplug Turbo 85Mbps adaptors to your home phone lines to enable multiple IRIS 3000 videophones around your house.

The videophone itself is free. Yeah, you read that right. Of course, you have to sign up with ACN's broadband VoIP service with a two-year committment, but it features unlimited calling to the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Not a bad deal. They also offer a pro-rated cancellation fee that goes progressively lower if you terminate early.

The IRIS 3000 converts to a Digital Photo Frame when not in use and includes a built-in phone adapter to connect other analog phones to your digital phone service. It also sports video outputs so images from the video phone can be projected onto a larger screen such as a computer or TV. The Video Phone lets you leave VideoMail for family or friends that also own a ACN IRIS 3000 videophone.

They also offer Family Plan Lines which offers discounted video phone lines to your family and friends. Also, you can VoIP or video talk to anyone on ACN's network with no long distance charges.

  • Unlimited calling throughout U.S. (including Hawaii), Canada & Puerto Rico
  • Video communication
  • 7", high-resolution digital screen
  • Digital Photo Frame feature when not in use
  • Auto-light sensor
  • Traditional calling features: Call Waiting, Caller ID & Call Forwarding, 911 Dialing and more
  • Enhanced Phonebook

Cool features - now if only more VoIP service providers offered free videophones that inter-operated with other service providers, then life would be good.

Finally, check out the promo video for the ACN IRIS 3000. Donald Trump makes a quick appearance, apparently as an ACN IRIS 3000 videophone user. Wonder if he signed off on that endorsement?

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