Apple may be laying out a foundation of pretty serious evolution in personal communications right under our noses with Facetime.
Facetime is an open spec. Always good for adoption. It’s supported by one of the hottest consumer cell phones out there. It’s data-based, but also rooted in SIP. Now, if the rumour sites are right, the latest incarnations won’t only go to phone numbers, but to email addresses associated with devices.
Big deal you say? Think it through for a moment. If you have multiple devices, they register to a single email address. You have a universal number now. Any connection to that email address via Facetime (voice, video, however) and you alert every device it’s associated to (or the most recently live one is a default, or user preference) regardless of location.
Ok, so that’s Instant Messenger on many devices. Again, big deal you say.
SIP can associate a phone number in there as well of course, and the phone has a phone number in there, but let’s theorize something.
Let’s say for theoretical argument’s sake that Apple replaces AIM as the mobileme transport with this “universal iContact system”. Anyone on it with an iChat client or Facetime device (iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac (again, theoretically, we’re forecasting)) can connect to anyone on any of their devices with a voice, video or even plain text or data session at any time. SMS goes bye-bye as it’s just a typed text chat line to the facetime address. You have a new unlocked iPhone 4 and you pick up a local data plan wherever you travel to and all your “calls” are forwarded automatically at local rates for data. Roaming charges to bye-bye.
Now let’s say the Apple creates a SIP gateway that can associate the iContact ID with a phone number they provide, sort of like a SkypeIn number or other “real” phone number in a voice system. When the call goes to that number, it gets forwarded as a translated Facetime voice chat to any and all of your associated Facetime iContact devices, and you pick it up just like a Grand Central number (Google Voice now).
Apple has replaced present-day mobile phone numbers with a universal number, added in the video calling, text chatting, voice calling and crunched it all down to data streams on a standardized open protocol. The cell companies finally are reduced to data plan sellers (which is all they *should* be charging us for today anyway, the rest is restricted repackaged data at ridiculous markups (read: SMS)) and the roaming charges that get travellers so irate are gone without losing contact by having local sim cards and phone numbers everywhere. Now it’s starting to look like a big deal.
Deploy VOIP and messaging as a primary avenue with a bunch of features everyone thought were in the future 20 years ago (video calling) and already have a device that’s creating a critical mass. Lump all that on top of the ability for other device manufacturers to jump on the bandwagon with compatible services and offerings, and we finally get connected in a quality way, a universal way, and a fair way, and it happens soon.
It may even be happening now.