Jonathan Christensen Provides More Skype Insight at VON.x Panel

A VON.x General Session on Real-Time Social Communications this past Tuesday afternoon turned largely into a discussion of the impact of video on social communications. With panelists such as Robert Scoble (now with, Brad Hunstable (founder of, Ramu Sunkara (CEO of and Loic LeMeur (CEO of Seesmic) effectively representing broadcast streaming video, Skype’s Jonathan Christensen (3rd from right) was the lone representative with the perspective of one-to-one video conversations. Jeff Pulver, right, was the session moderator.

But within this milieu Jonathan was able to make some interesting points:

  • While Oprah had been using Skype High Quality Video for two sessions of her weekly "A New Earth" classes, for the first time she used it for about five minutes this past Monday during her regular late afternoon show to promote that evening’s third session.
  • 30% of all Skype-to-Skype calls include use of video.
  • CIF size image vs Skype size image: Initial mass market Internet video over broadband connections, at 320 x 240 (a la SightSpeed), was found acceptable at close to a legacy television-related standard call CIF. When Skype was in the early development phase of High Quality Video and they had the first prototypes of the Logitech Carl-Zeiss optics webcams, Jonathan quickly realized the impact of having a full 640 x 480 image transmitted at 25 – 30 fps in test calls from the development team base in Sweden back to his family in the U.S. Its recent adoption by Oprah and CNN for much lower cost interview production serves as the final confirmation of High Quality Video as a new benchmark standard for video conversations.
  • "Backhaul is rapidly becoming the bottleneck": While Skype, iSkoot and 3 are having successful adoption of the 3 Skypephone in those countries where it is available, full mobility with VoIP on the handset is still some time away, especially in the U.S. Skype is monitoring the situation but with issues such as not only insufficient handset resources but also having only a T1 backhaul line to the Internet from cell phone towers, there simply is not the wireless network infrastructure and capacity in place to support any reasonable volume of VoIP calls over wireless with sustainable quality. Only when these cell phone towers start to deploy fibre for the backhaul will there be the appropriate mobile network infrastructure. Jonathan’s analogy of the current situation: "it’s like having a dialup connection attached to your 100MBps home network". One more reason for the networks to focus on providing the "pipes" and to leave content to third parties.

Re the Oprah show Skype call: I finally was able to watch a PVR-recorded version of this show when I returned home a couple of days ago, Not only did she spend five minutes having a live video conversation with one of the "A New Earth" session viewers, she then went on for about a minute after finishing the call promoting the virtues of Skype. No longer does Skype need to be questioned about generating awareness in North America.

Check out Alec Saunders’post "Streaming video wirelessly changes the game" for the pervasive exposure we had to Nokia N95’s streaming video at every turn during VON.x this past week.

Tags: Skype, VON.x, Skype High Quality Video, Jonathan Christensen, Oprah, CNN, Brough Turner, iSkoot, Skypephone, Alec Saunders, Nokia N95

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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