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Fring to the Rescue: Mobile Video Conferencing Karishma Sundaram | , 10:43 a.m. Nov. 25, 2009 2009-11-25

For those of us with Nokia N-series phones, the later ones at least, there has always been curiosity regarding the front-facing camera. The little one, usually on top of the screen, is the one we are referring to – we all know what the high-powered Carl Zeiss lens one does. The box says ‘video conferencing’, but most of us use it, if at all, to take self portraits. 

There is a reason for the camera, obviously, considering phone manufacturers have diligently inserted into many, many models over the years. It is probably ridiculous to assume that phone manufacturers would install a secondary camera merely to indulge the vanity of their customers, therefore the video conferencing tag must be right. 

It is not really a big leap, when one considers that video conferencing has long been established on computers. When NetMeeting first arrived, with pixellated video feeds taken by a low-resolution VGA webcam, there was so much excitement. Now, with Skype and all other messengers incorporating video chat into their programs, the thought of online video conferencing is no longer a big deal. 

The question that then begs itself is why exactly are mobile phones left out in the virtual video conferencing cold? 

The answer lies with the network service providers, of course. The same people who have restricted the use of VoIP calls because it would eat away into their profit margins. It is true; VoIP calls are direct competitors for traditional calls, as they use the Internet as a medium of transfer. Therefore if a customer has an unlimited data plan on their phones, for the same amount of money every month, they can make any number of calls. One can see telecommunications providers gritting their teeth on an issue like this, at least until they figure out a way to monetize it for their benefits. 

So customers are left with a rather unfortunate choice – if they want VoIP, lug around a laptop, because your phone sure as heck will not dish out the goods. 

Video conferencing has taken the same route, until now that is: Fring, the ubiquitous messenger that brings together all web messengers into one cohesive heap, has finally added support for Skype video on S60 devices. Which, when loosely translated, means that those users with Skype accounts can now use the video conferencing feature on Fring, on their phones – a previously un-heard of occurrence. Currently, this little gem works only on S60 phones, so all other platforms are going to be left out in the cold for now at least. However, few other platforms have forward-facing cameras as rampant as Nokia N-series phones.

We seriously doubt that the trip is going to be easy for Fring, as there is some way service providers are going to find a clause in the fine print that makes this a violation. Like we said before, unless they find a way of monetizing video conferencing, it is unlikely to happen at all. 

Read the whole press release here on Fring’s website.

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