Missing the video-communication train…

I'm coming back to a topic I dicussed already a few months ago, namely video-communication and the role that telcos could play in it. As you probably know if you read me, I'm convinced that TV6centric Video-Communication is as close as a killer app of FTTP we'll ever find, and I'm repeatedly frustrated and astounded that telcos who are moving towards FTTP are not looking at bringing this on the market anytime soon.

I already mentioned that Skype's move into that field represented a serious threat, but in recent weeks, we have seen a much more serious one emerge: Apple. I admit I was stunned (in a good way) when I first saw the iPhone 4 video-communication ad (it's called Facetime by Apple, by the way). First of all, because it's good. Second because it's a rare example of a mostly international advert that works (although the soldier character looks a bit too American for some parts of the world, maybe…) If you haven't seen it, here's an extended version (the one on French TV is a little shorter):

Most importantly though, I was stunned because Apple is doing what the telcos should have started doing months ago: winning the hearts and minds. Apple is effectively saying to customers: the terminal for video-communication is the iPhone. Forget the TV, forget the PC, forget any dedicated device anyone could sell you, this is how you do video-communication.

The telco minded people will argue that it's wi-fi only, that previous attemps at video-communication over mobile failed, and all of these are valid arguments in the microcosm of the telecom industry, but the public sees a worldwide advert that showcases exactly why video-communication is a compelling product, focusing on the emotions it generates.

Why does this matter? Because the telcos are once more going to see none of this business. Facetime operates over wi-fi because the image quality is too high to be delivered over 3G. But also because that's the simplest way to operate it through the internet and without any telco involvement.

Instead of taking the lead (even at the risk of being on a slow market for a few years) and establishing their brand as the one delivering a quality video-communication experience, the telcos are once again letting one of the guys operating above them put his stake in the ground and say "I'll be the leader of this, thank you very much, and if you want a piece of it, you'll have to come and talk to me…"

In other words, Apple is (once again) disintermediating the telcos faster than they can spell 'over the top'…