Multi-platform Multi-media Calling

Wouldn’t it be terrific if you could use one integrated client software/service to do instant messaging, voice, video, and screen sharing (multi-media calling) across Mac, Windows and Linux (multi-platform)? Well we aren’t there yet but progress is being made.

Most multi-media calling capabilities use instant messaging (IM) as the foundation and interoperable solutions are available for IM chat. Multi-platform voice, video, and screensharing are still a challenge.

If you want to just interact with other Mac users, iChat does it all. It even does voice and video but not screensharing with Windows users who have AIM accounts. AIM is not the most popular client software/service*, however, so finding buddies could be difficult if you can’t convince them to subscribe to yet another service. I would like to hear from people who have thoroughly tested the x-platform interoperability to see if it is worthwhile trying to convince people to get AIM accounts. The probable deal breaker though is that the most useful feature, screensharing, is not supported X-platform.

* From wikipedia figures the current market share of IM services is approximately as follows:
1. Skype 309M
2. Windows Live Messenger 300M
3. Yahoo Messenger 248M
4. AIM (used by iChat which also has MobileMe) >100M
5. Jabber (used by Google Talk) 90M
(Tencent QQ has 783M active accounts but most of these are in China)

iChat windows showing video screensharing of a photo, instant messaging, and buddy list

Apple - Mac OS X Leopard - Features - iChat

Google Talk can use the iChat client on the Mac for instant messaging but that service doesn’t support voice, video, and screen sharing using iChat. X-platform (Mac and Windows) voice and video can be done within the Gmail service by installing the Google voice and video software and screensharing can be done by installing the Yuuguu software. Below is an interoperability matrix for Google Voice:

Google Talk Client choice

Google Talk client choice

Google Talk supports standards and native client choices on each platform which works well for instant messaging but voice calls only work between the Goggle Talk clients.

Skype is another popular online calling choice which is multi-platform (Mac, Windows, Linux) for IM, voice, and video. Yugma Skype edition is a Skype addon that provides multi-platform screen sharing. Skype is starting to offer integrated screen sharing through beta software (as opposed to using an add-on) but right now you can only share screens from a Mac to Mac or Mac to Windows and not from Windows. However, Skype is the closest thing to a full featured multi-platform multi-media client that is currently available.

Skype 4 for Windows

Skype 4.0 for Windows

Some day all of this will interoperate so you don’t have to use multiple redundant clients/services.
Until that day comes users who want multi-media calling to buddies on multiple platforms will probably need at least two or three clients:
– iChat (for Mac users)
– Google Talk
– Skype

Right now, Skype is the closest thing to a full featured multi-platform client, iChat offers the best integration for Mac users, and Google Talk is an up and coming contender that is particularly suitable for people that collaborate using Google applications.

Multi-platform = Mac, Windows, Linux
X-platform = more than 1 platform (usually Mac and Windows)
Multi-media = instant messaging, voice, video, screensharing

3 thoughts on “Multi-platform Multi-media Calling”

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