Fun seems to be the message with this year’s webcam and communications launches from Microsoft at its Hardware Anywhere event. This week the software giant announced that it is not only releasing two new webcams but also launching a video messaging service through Windows Live Messenger.
The new service is designed to help busy people take advantages of the benefits video chat offers. According to Microsoft's Bennie Soto, plenty of research was conducted during the development of the service. Microsoft found that the big problem for most users wasn’t the video process itself but “trying to arrange for that video call — making sure some one else will be there on the other end”.
“It’s about communicating with friends and family … but we want to be able to communicate with friends and family any time and anywhere”, Soto said.
The service will run in tandem with Windows Live Messenger, which gives Microsoft a strong user base, particularly in Australia. Users will be given two gigabytes of storage, which is enough for several hundred videos. Any message that is sent isn’t actually transferred: it simply stays on the sender’s personal page and a link is distributed. This allows users to delete and manipulate their messages later on.
The president of Microsoft's Entertainment Devices Division, Robert Bach, gave this example to highlight the vision for the service: “So if I want to be able to leave my mum a video birthday card, we’ll be able to do that. My kids will be able to deliver that message, and whether she’s on the PC at that time or not won’t matter because she’ll get the message; she’ll see us in video and she’ll be able to have that special experience.”
Users will be able to access their messages in two ways: Windows Vista owners will have the option of a gadget on their desktop, while a Web interface is also on offer.
Microsoft has also launched two new webcams. Sporting a new software suite that allows a host of entertaining image manipulation options (gigantic eyes, huge smiles, funny hats etc.) the goal is clearly for people to enjoy themselves. “This is the kind of thing [people] want”, says Michael Cowan, webcam product marketing manager for Microsoft. "They want video effects so they can have fun.”
The LiveCam Show features a variety of mounting options, including the ability to attach to the back of a notebook lid. It is designed to allow users to show off their surroundings. The LiveCam VX5500 comes in a variety of funky colours so people can personalise it as they see fit. It also folds flat for easy transportation. Both units will be available in October and will retail for $179.95 and $99.95, respectively.