LiveWire: Smile! You're on V-Mail

Comb your hair, brush your teeth and straighten that collar: Video e-mail may finally be going primetime.

As the cost of so-called "v-mail" services drop, an "I miss you" message from a far-away sweetheart or a "Happy Birthday" serenade from Grandma could soon be winging its way to your e-mail in-box.

A variety of companies have recently introduced cheap video-mail (also referred to as "v-mail") offerings that manage to squeeze a one-minute multimedia message to the size of a one-page Word document. And the prices of Web cameras -- ranging from $25 to $150 -- are dropping fast.

V-mail technology has been around for years, but bandwidth constraints and the expense of upgrading one's computer to view the videos have sidelined it as a niche feature. What's different now is one indisputable fact of Internet life: Sending e-mails remains far and away the most popular online activity.

According to a recent Forrester Research study, 94 percent of Internet users send an e-mail at least once a week, and 41 percent send pictures via e-mail once a week.

"Photo sharing has become very, very big, so I could see this become an emerging consumer technology," said Jim Nail, an analyst with Forrester in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

News source: Reuters - LiveWire: Smile! You're on V-Mail

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