Ever since FaceTime on the iPhone 4 pushed video calling into the mainstream in June last year, manufacturers have been scrambling to add the feature to their own products. Startup company SeePort is one of many companies with plans to tap into this consumer desire for face-to-face remote communication.
Founded in 2010, the San Francisco company has partnered with video conferencing service provider Vidtel to bring to market both a mobile software platform and a dedicated video chat hardware device. SeePort envisions creating a solution, called ufone, that will always be on and easy to use.
The ufone will sport a touchscreen and will eventually support 4G cellular networks (a Wi-Fi-only version will be released first). SeePort will not market or sell the hardware device, but instead assist its manufacturer in doing so. Its solution will also be open source and provide remote access to mobile phone users. The company made news for winning a Founders Showcase award in August, 2010.
Why the Competition Should Care
SeePort CEO Lauren Elliot has said that the hardware device will be made with the help of a partner manufacturer that “rhymes with Kodak.” This feeds speculation that the mystery SeePort device could be some sort of digital picture frame with face chat capabilities. Elliot also claims that SeePort has plans to launch ufone apps on both iOS and Android by the end of Q1 this year. If ufone proves to be a reliable solution, it could give video chat pioneers such as OoVoo, Qik, Skype, and Apple’s FaceTime a little heat.
With so many players in the video chat space, and with Skype’s recent acquisition of Qik, it will be difficult for SeePort to stand out in the crowd. But the unique always-on nature of ufone gives it a solid chance at making a dent in what’s still a very young market.