A few years ago my need for personal video conferencing became serious. I have family scattered around the world, and I wanted them to see my newborn son. It was around this same time that Apple announced iSight/iChat (their video conferencing solution for personal computers). Further coincidence around that time was AOL and Apple agreed to allow AIM and iChat accounts to interact, and not only that, the video capabilities (codec interop) of each would integrate. So, I bought an iSight camera, and my brother in California bought a webcam for his windows laptop. After some configuration, on his end, we were able to get things up and running; he was able to see me and my family on a more regular basis; hurray!
Not long after that I sent my cousin in Kauai an iSight (he has an eMac). After zero configuration, we were able to see eachother's families on a more regular basis; hurray!
Apple's peripheral, end-to-end "plug and play" model has always been more useful than wintel solutions, and that reality played out yet again over the weekend. My brother just changed employers, and subsequently his laptop configuration changed. We tried setting up his webcam on his new wintel laptop, and we struggled each step of the way. He didn't have an AIM client installed yet, we couldn't find the right one that works with video conferencing, and once we though we had, still no dice. A few months ago he'd bought an iBook, so I sent him an iSight so we could just see each-other, and stop messing around with devices. Once it arrived at his house, I called him and asked if we could video conference, at which point he sighed and reluctantly agreed to try to set it up. I said you just had to plug it in, give it your account name, and you're done; he laughed out loud at the prospect of it being so simple. Sure enough, a few minutes later, with zero assistance from me, we were live on video.
This blog is starting to feel like an Apple advertisement; I'll back off of these kinds of posts; sorry.
Walt Mossberg gets it: "In Our Post-PC Era, Apple's Device Model Beats the PC Way."