Video telephone conversations may become more common with a new technique Intel Corp. was scheduled to demonstrate Thursday that allows personal computers to ship video signals over ordinary phone lines.
The innovation will be placed in many new personal computers sold for home use this fall, executives from Intel and computer makers said.It builds on Intel's experience with its ProShare product, sold to businesses to allow video conversations through PC networks and higher-speed phone lines called ISDN.
Intel has improved the portion of ProShare that compresses the video signal. That step allows it to move through ordinary phone lines, which have a far lower data-carrying capacity than ISDN, at the same time the voice signal does.
The picture moves at a rate of 4 to 12 frames per second, resulting in a herky-jerky movement. Full-motion video, as seen on TV or movies, is 30 frames per second.
Executives behind the product are confident customers will accept its limitations for the time being, particularly since the capa-bility will be standard in many new PCs.
"We have gotten very resounding and strong enthusiasm for this product at these price points," said Patrick Gelsinger, vice president of the Internet and communications group at Intel.
"It's something that's been talked about for 30 years and never been made cost effective," said Rod Schrock, vice president of the consumer product group at Com-paq Computer Corp., which will include the product in most of its Presario line this fall.
Cameras needed to transmit the picture will be sold as an accessory for less than $200, Schrock said.
Other PC makers are also expected to include the innovation in their fall line and also sell the camera separately, Gelsinger said.
Intel developed the video technology as a way to make PCs more attractive to customers, which in turn helps Intel sell more chips. The company, based in Santa Clara, Calif., supplies the microprocessor for about 90 percent of the world's personal computers.
The video phone capability requires a Pentium 133 MHz micro-processor, one of the company's newer chips. Because of that, it won't work on most existing PCs and won't be sold as a stand-alone product for some time.
Andy Bose, president of Access Media International USA Inc., a media ventures consulting firm in New York, said he expects the feature to be popular first with people who work at home.
"The issue still remains quality and whether people will accept some jerky movement," Bose said. "What this means is people don't have to equip their PCs with high speed datalines."
Voice telephones and answering machine functions have been standard in most home PCs since 1993.