My days of working in a bathrobe are numbered.
One of the joys of freelancing is that I don’t have to get dressed up to go to work. In fact, I don’t even have to get dressed. I do, of course, eventually. But when I have loads of work or a pressing deadline, I stay in my pajamas. All in the name of efficiency, of course. Why spend time on clothes, hair and makeup when nobody’s going to see me anyway, except maybe the FedEx man?
But now that integrated webcams have become a standard feature in most laptops, rudimentary video conferencing through services like Skype and Google video chat are becoming more common. I started to realize this when my son went off to college this fall. He was amazed that he couldn’t video chat with me. (I was amazed that he wanted to. It was probably just a momentary lapse caused by the novelty of the webcam on his college-issued laptop combined with a golden opportunity to make me feel clueless.)
Initially I thought maybe we could keep this Skype thing just between me and family. Then in October Cisco introduced Umi Telepresence , a video conferencing system for the home. The system, which retails for $600, includes a camera that connects to a high-definition TV to become a video-conferencing system that shows everything. With this technology, you’re no longer just a talking head at the computer, but a full person, head to toe, with a picture “so clear, natural and lifelike that users will see . . . the twinkle in your eye.” Or, in my case, the stain on my bathrobe and the fuzzy slippers on my feet. Wonderful.
I’m hoping this won’t catch on. But the monthly subscription cost – just $25/month for unlimited video calls and storage of up to 100 minutes of video messages – is going to be attractive for businesses that till now have been priced out of the high-end videoconferencing market. And there’s going to be lots of competition that will drive those costs down further. Skype, for example, just hired away a senior vice president of Cisco’s, Tony Bates, to become its CEO. It doesn’t take a high-definition picture to see what’s going on there.
My five-year-old computer is about ready for retirement. But I keep putting off shopping for a new one, because I probably won’t be able to avoid buying one with integrated webcam and microphone. Which means this time around it’s more than the hardware and software that requires an upgrade. Bye, bye, bathrobe.