iChat: Video Conferencing for the Rest of Them

by Antoine Quint

So I've been talking about how great the new multi-person video chats in Tiger iChat was going to be to my family ever since the first Tiger demos at WWDC 2004. We're all scattered on different parts of the world, and everyone bought a portable Mac less than 6 months ago with iSights and upgraded to Tiger last week.

Put it together, that's a hefty investment. Of course, a Mac OS X Tiger-equipped Mac is more than just a video conference device, and we're lucky it is, because that super-pimped-up multi-party video conferencing feature in Tiger sure isn't available to us mere laptop users! I Tried on my PowerBook G4 1.5 Ghz to video-call my brother with a PowerBook G4 1.33 Ghz and my mother with an iBook 1.2 Ghz and it was a no-go, iChat says: "you can't host a video chat".

So I think to myself that there's got to be some preference in there that allows you to be a "host". Nope. No preference. Unless you consider that preference to be having a G5-equipped Mac or a 1Ghz dual processor G4 that is. Although technically, according to iChat help, we can all attend multi-party video conferences as those are available to owners of 1 GHz single processor G4 machines. So we can join the party but we sure can't start it.

I'm pretty bitter that I never even second-guessed the requirements for this new Tiger feature, but Apple sure didn't help us figure that puppy out on our own. That sucks. I hope you G5 desktop owners enjoy video conferencing though. For the rest of us laptop users, don't believe the hype!


2005-05-13 10:24:17
Hardware trailing software
It's not uncommon for new software packages to outstrip mainstream hardware. Multi-party video conferencing is certainly demanding in video processing. I sympathise with your position as my family and friends are also scattered around the globe. But I think if you went as far as arranging laptops for all your main buddies, a modern iMac would be a good investment to enable your four-way video chats. The iMac is the mainstream reference for Apple hardware, and it already sports a G5 processor.
2005-05-13 10:28:39
Hardware trailing software
Yeah, you're right that it's understandable that the hardware requirements for such a feature are high. I'm just disappointed that it didn't just work, guess I should have read that table at the bottom of iChat's product page and stop listen to the word of Steve.
2005-05-13 23:18:42

If you want multiuser conferencing on the Mac you should check out Marratech at www.marratech.com. The client is free and it support multiuser realtime audio, video, chat, whiteboard, co-web etc etc. The platform supports SIP, H323 and clients exist for Windows and Linux as well!

Check it out!

Marratech 5.0 was released yesterday!


2005-05-14 08:03:26
Hardware trailing software
I'm a little unclear about the hardware requirement. If you have the right hardware to HOST a four-way video chat, what do the people you are video-chatting see, if they have slower CPU's such as a Powerbook? Do they see ALL THREE videos (plus one of themselves) just like the host or do they only see a one-on-one video with the host?
2005-05-15 03:59:22
Typical Apple
Been a Mac evangelist for years, and I'm growing more embittered to say that this is such a typical Apple move.

Great "new" features are announced - new only to Mac users, for the most part - only to find out the very real shortcomings upon implementation. My gripe is largely with server-side / groupware features of various flavors of OS X Server (remember "shared calendaring" with iCal... oh yeah, just so long as you don't want to change anybody else's calendar).

Spotlight, as it turns out, only works on local volumes... unless you care to run a command line hack every time you log into a shared volume.

Are these huge? Not really, but it's real disappointment... again.

2005-05-15 19:06:10
Here's what it looks like:
Apple has a page about how iChat works


And also has a video which shows what it looks like:


2005-05-20 06:59:39
Blame H.264
H.264 is an incredible video codec but it is definitely a CPU resource hog. It works great on my PowerMac Dual G5 but the only video clips I can watch on my iBook G3 with it are clips that are 320x240 in size. Anything bigger is impossible to watch. I don't know if Apple knew about this when they made H.264 the codec for iChat but they should have tested it.

Does iChat work with G4's or G3's in a one on one video chat?

2005-11-14 02:41:20
As Peter said before, try Marratech. I want to recommend the web conferencing system because it's cross-platform and works great.

I've tried most of the systems worth mentioning. Marratech enables video conferencing, document sharing and so on for multiple users.