Apple’s latest beta of their next version iOS, due to be released this fall, has been discovered to feature an AirPlay enabled version of FaceTime. Now if you’re not a user of Apple products, you probably have no idea what the hell that even means. AirPlay is Apple’s proprietary way of wirelessly streaming audio and video to the Apple TV. An Apple TV, for the uninitiated, is a $99 box that’s basically the guts of an iPod touch, but with no screen and an HDMI connector on the back so you can connect it to your television. With an Apple TV you can rent movies, watch Netflix, listen to whatever it is you’ve got on iTunes, that sort of stuff. Anyway, back to decoding Apple’s cryptic marketing language. FaceTime is what Apple likes to call video chat. Their standard is of course proprietary, and it only works with Apple products. So what exactly is an AirPlay enabled FaceTime app? You can launch FaceTime from your iPhone, start a video call, and then with a few swipes and taps you can beam someone’s face on to the huge television in your living room. Never mind that it’ll be confusing with regards as to whether you should stare at your iPhone or your TV, from a technology perspective this is awesome.
Now there’s likely a reason Apple didn’t demo this feature when they showed off iOS 5 earlier this summer at their annual Worldwide Developers Conference. We think it may have to do with the fact that they need to fix the user experience. Better yet, why not release an updated Apple TV that features a camera sensor and a pair of microphones to make any TV video chat enabled? No wait a minute, that box would then be expensive, and no one would buy it.
We don’t know what to think of this just yet, video calling isn’t exactly something we do all that often anyway.