Now that CES is over and most of the other bloggers out there have wrapped it up and moved on, it is time for me to look back and ask where was video calling at CES?
Video conferencing is an enterprise thing: it fits large international organizations with multiple sites around the globe. With expensive systems, high bandwidth needs and complex management, this is how it is viewed today.
Now this is changing, and some of the indications of this change were visible at CES. Here's a collection of what I bumped into while walking the show floor.
The personal video phones at the show were quite small in their form factor - similar to an enterprise IP phone with touch screen displays of about 7".
These products were full of applications where video telephony is only one of them: you can find them with calendars, the weather, notes, photos and other widgets crammed into this tiny little device.
The main thing I can say about these beauties is that they all follow the iPhone example of putting a lot of effort and thought into the design and the user interface.
Now none of these videophones have made any considerable commercial breakthroughs, but it's still too early to know whether this will happen in the future. They can become very popular, very fast if these companies focus on easy installation and management to successfully market them.
And what were the most notable ones at the show?
iriver Wave-Home. A great product with a weird name?
iriver is planning to take these to the SMBs and package it as an offering through local service providers in every country they visit - Korea and the US markets are their first targets.
Another entrant to the video phone market is Hyunjin's FIMCA H300. Hyunjin showed their prototype during the show "hidden" in the Korean pavilion at the Hilton.
Hyunjin's FIMCA. Great for businesses.
This phone, not yet available, has a nice touch screen and a wealth of applications.
A second Korean company came out with a videophone. I couldn't find a picture on the internet anywhere, but I did manage to grab a brochure at the CES show.
Vizufon CVP-2000. Korea ruling the videophones.
Another great videophone at the show was the inPerson from Creative. It launched a few months ago, but for some reason I didn't catch it on my radar screen.
Creative inPerson. Comes with Service.
For this one, Creative created their own "service provider" and is therefore selling the video phones with their own service attached to it.
Notice how every product these days from Asus is branded as Eee? So is their new Skype videophone. Though they placed this product in their booth, it wasn't central in their overall messaging product display.
Ai Guru SV1. The first Skype videophone.
An interesting prototype was displayed at Hitachi's booth. It was a TV set with integrated video telephony - High Definition with all the bells and whistles. Hitachi wanted to get feedback on this prototype to decide if they would move forward and produce it or not. I hope they do!
To my surprise, the camera was positioned on the lower part of the screen, which makes sense when you look at it.
What was missing for me in this show were all the desktop guys - Skype, Google, ooVoo, Sightspeed and a few others.
Although they are desktop centric, they did have a place at CES in my view.
Maybe we'll see them there next time.