With the exception of that time in college I hooked up my PS2 EyeToy to my PC (just because I heard you could), I haven’t ever really paid mind to using a webcam. For the most part, IMs got the job done, and if I wanted to talk to someone, I had a phone in my dorm room or I could eat up some minutes on my cell phone. If I wanted to see someone face to face, it was a matter of minutes to go to each other’s dorm or to meet somewhere else on campus. The device just never fit in to my lifestyle, even as gadget-filled as it was.
Today I went with my folks to ye olde electronicks shoppe and picked up a pair of webcams so I could still see my parents while they travelled. After installing communication software and making a Skype account, my dad finally joined some of our other relatives in the video-chatting age and even beat me to webcam usership. I thought it amusing that my parents would have a webcam before I did, and then I remembered that my netbook had a built-in webcam. Of course I forgot about it; I never used it.
Aside from that one computer, both of our laptops are old enough where built-in webcams weren’t expected to be built-in.
As with pretty much everything Apple related, it wasn’t long after I bought my iMac G5 that they introduced their latest iteration with a built-in iSight. That was back in 2005, and it didn’t take long for them to start adding the webcam into the lids of their notebooks. What used to cost $150 as an add-on was now becoming a standard feature across the board.
It was inconsistent at first, but PC laptop manufacturers started adding them to their machines, now becoming almost as ubiquitous. They’re not standard on monitors yet, and I’m not sure that they will be.
There’s a pretty wide assortment of webcams on the store shelves and I wonder who the audience is. Pretty much all non-business laptops sold for the past couple years have them built into the lids, so that leaves the market to aforementioned business laptop owners (who don’t opt for a MacBook Pro) and those who buy non-all-in-one desktop computers.
I remember back in the day when the most iconic webcam was the bulbous Connectix/Logitech QuickCam “eyeball pyramid.” These days, most you’ll find are quite small. Though you could argue that electronics are shrinking in general, I think the form-factors have shrunken to become more appealing to the traveler, whether or not the camera is marketed for laptops or not.
Assuming that that is the case, does that market still exist now that almost all laptop owners get them bundled in as freebies? From what I see on YouTube, most people aren’t picky enough to buy their own higher-grade equipment and those that are tend to go with some kind of handheld “flipcam” or other digital camera.
Despite the rise of vlogging and video chat, I’m curious to see if wide product lines continue to be viable with the decline of the desktop computer and commoditization of the camera in laptops, tablets, and smartphones.