Wednesday, August 20, 2003

FCC Feels Bad for AOL

(originally posted at

Awww, merger didn't turn out to be as good as you all hoped? Here, we'll lift some of the merger restrictions for you... no hard feelings?

I see this as a mixed blessing. AOL was supposed to work towards interoperability with the other major IM networks (Yahoo!, MSN, ICQ.. err wait, they own that one) before they were allowed to implement video chat capabilities to their AIM client. That was a stipulation of the AOL/TW merger. Fact.

Now, AOL sneakily got around the video chat ban by allowing Apple to license and use their network with Apple's iChat AV client. But let's face it, Apple's hardly a market, hardly a demographic. Since it was Apple's client and not AOL's that was implementing the video conferencing feature, the FCC didn't really notice or care.

Fast-forward a few months and Apple's iChat AV is a hit, people love it, it gets rave reviews from the Wird's and C|Net's of the world, and AOL sees an opportunity to poke and prod the FCC and see if they can get the restriction dropped. "Woe is me," cries AOL, "we're losing customers because we can't get our act together." A few days later the FCC votes to drop the restriction.

Back to the mixed blessings bit - this shows what everyone knew to already be true: the FCC are a bunch of wimps. On the plus side, I'm betting that Apple will actually help AOL to implement standards-based voice and video chat to make it interoperable with Apple's iChat AV client. It would be disasterous for Apple to have its user base cut off from the rest of the AIM network for voice and video. At the same time it's an opportunity for Apple to show off how much more advanced their iChat AV client and iSight webcam really are. Win-win for Apple.

Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

No comments: