Videophones for the masses: might Amstrad do it?

Interesting: Amstrad launches home videophone, basically the old Em@iler with a video phone thing, for £99 each or £179 for a pair (hmm, what do you think? Shall we buy a pair or save money and only buy one?).

Alan Sugar (before his beknightment) had a hit with the original PCs, and got Britain typing on screen at home. However since then the company’s struggled to hit one out of the park.

Obvious detail: Amstrad said the images appearing on the E3’s colour screen will not be TV quality but are likely to match what is possible on a PC using a dial-up net account. Well yes, that would be because it is a PC (stripped down) on a dialup account. Durr.

The trouble, as with all videophones, is finding someone else who has one. It’s the converse of the network effect – call it the “krowten” syndrome (didja see what I did there?) – where there’s no point being the first person in town with something. There was no point being the first P2P Napster subscriber, the first KaZaA user, the first AIM user. They only get their power from network effects, where by contrast the Amstrad WP PCs, designed specifically for word processing, using non-standard floppy drives (2″? Someone remind me) and non-standard OS could still produce something – words on paper – that anyone could use. On their own. And anyone could read the result. In 1991 I wrote three chapters of what could have been the worst book in the world on a PCW8512. The plot revolved around the powers-that-be in tennis organising all sorts of stunts to reinterest the audience – such as parachutists landing on court, and a star player getting stabbed. A year later, Monica Seles got stabbed, and I saw a parachutist land on the court at the French Open. Damn it.

And there are still plenty of households (about half) that don’t have a PC, for whom this is just enough technology. The perverse thing is that they’ll not be interested until they know their friends are going to get one. And their friends won’t get one until…

1 Comment

  1. They were 3″ disks – see http://www.pcwking.freeserve.co.uk/blank4.html for a memory refresh.

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