My wife Chris has her MacBook home from school a lot, and last night I saw a bit more of the future.
I grew up being promised, like everyone in my generation, two iconic tools of the future...flying cars and video phones. I remember going to the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York and there were a pair of mock video phone booths five feet apart. My grandfather and I went into one, my parents went into the other, and we pretended to be on the phone even though we could actually hear my parents through the air better than through the speaker....
Well, last night, the future arrived. Chris and I used iChat on her laptop to talk/see/chat with Ben in Denver for nearly an hour. I've been at his new place, but Chris hasn't, so he walked around the house, and gave Chris a tour, using the built-in camera in his laptop. She, in turn, showed him some new art here in our place. The connection was perfect, not jumpy. The conversation flowed very freely, with just a few "what did you say?", although all three of us were talking simultaneously occasionally....Of course, it was also free, not that cell phones cost much, but free is free, and a live video feed is worth how much audio?
In its current version, iChat supports up to four people simultaneously and works with most IM services (we used AIM last night).
I see this as a key piece of the future of team communications for increasingly spread out nonprofit staff. Small team meetings, "face time" between ED and Board presidents, a benefit for those of your staff who have to travel to stay in touch with their families.
Dream realized......I gotta go outside and look for my flying car.