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20.2. iChat AV

iChat AV, which you got free with Panther but costs $30 to the less enlightened who still use Mac OS X 10.2, is a combo communications program that does three things:

  • Instant messaging. If you don't know what instant messaging is, chances are there's a teenager near you who does.

    It's like live email. You type messages to friends and colleagues in a chat window, in real time, and they type replies back to you. Instant messaging can be a great way to converse with the privacy of email but the immediacy of the phone.

    In this regard, iChat is a lot like AOL's popular Instant Messenger (AIM) and Buddy Chats. In fact, iChat lets you type back and forth with any of AIM's 150 million members (it speaks the same "chat" language), which is a huge advantage. But iChat's visual design is pure Apple.

  • Free long distance. If your Mac has a microphone, and so does your buddy, the two of you can also chat out loud, using the Internet as a free long-distance telephone.

  • Free videoconferencing. The "AV" in the name stands, of course, for audio-video. If you and your buddy each have broadband Internet connections and a FireWire camera—like Apple's own iSight camera, or (if your Mac has a G4 or G5 chip) even a digital camcorder—the two of you can conduct one-on-one video chats. It's the perfect way to keep in touch when you're on the road—and about $99,900 less expensive than professional videoconferencing gear.


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