Why Would Apple Open Up Its ‘FaceTime’ Video Standard?

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Apple announced a feature called “FaceTime” today, which leverages your iPhone 4’s front- and rear-facing video camera to initiate video chatting sessions with other iPhone 4 owners right from within your contacts list or even while in the middle of a voice call.

It promises to be “perfectly seamless” which makes sense given it’s an Apple product and the demo looks pretty impressive for sure, but what’s more interesting about FaceTime is that during the WWDC keynote today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs remarked that “tens of millions of FaceTime devices will be shipped in 2010” and then went on to say that Apple wants FaceTime to become an open industry standard.

FaceTime leverages H.264 video compression, which is commonly used for YouTube videos and, you guessed it, iTunes videos. And while Google owns YouTube, the search engine giant recently announced that it’d be adopting its own web video standard called WebM–a move that many saw as a direct shot across Apple’s bow since Apple’s already heavily invested in H.264.

So is the opening up of the FaceTime standard a pre-emptive strike by Apple to speed up the adoption of H.264 video before WebM has a chance to gain traction? Seems a bit odd that the company would want to share “perfectly seamless” video chatting technology with potential competitors unless there’s a much bigger picture at play here—namely that Apple’s sunk big bucks into H.264 and it’s got all of its iTunes videos encoded into H.264 already.

More on Techland:

Hands-on with the iPhone 4

iPhone 4: The Specs Sheet

WWDC 2010 Keynote Liveblog