What will replace the iSight firewire camera? I suggest a wireless iSight camera.

It has become very apparent to anyone wanting one: It’s not that easy to purchase an “Apple iSight” firewire webcam. The former URL Apple.com/isight redirects to a general Mac accessories page. Only two items remain on the Apple.com page related to iSight accessories. Last Thursday, Patrick Ragsdale, rexblog director of hackology, was told by an Apple reseller that their company had been officially notified by Apple that the iSight camera model previously sold is officially retired. A search on eBay shows that used iSights are getting a premium. And on Amazon, the cameras are only available from resellers who are listing the price of a new iSight camera for $550, twice Apple’s price.

With such demand, why has the “firewire” iSight camera been discontinued? One obvious reason is that an iSight camera is now built into MacBooks and iMacs and new Apple monitors are expected to include them. Indeed, one of the current “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials is dedicated to touting the built-in iSight camera. However, there is still a need for an iSight camera that is independent from a MacBook or monitor. The one I have sitting on the top of my monitor is not only great for a face-to-face video chat, but also for swinging around so that someone can monitor the notes being written on a white board on the wall across from my desk. It is very apparent Apple doesn’t believe the only direction someone wants to point a camera is towards ones face as the camera on the new iPhone is pointed in the opposite direction.

So what gives?

My prediction — or more correctly, my wild guess — is that we’re about to hear an announcement of the #6 rumor on my “All the Apple rumors you’ll ever need“: A wireless iSight camera. I predict it will utilize 80211n and will work seamlessly with the new Apple Airport Extreme and a lot of Macs already sold that, for a $2 ‘unlock fee’ have 80211n. Perhaps an 80211n iSight camera could also work with the AppleTV so that you could stream video from the camera directly onto your HDTV (currently, the only feature of the AppleTV is the streaming of content from iTunes). A camera such as an 80211n wireless iSight camera with the proper type of power supply (the current iSight is powered by the computer via its firewire connection) could be used in a myriad of ways. For example an airport extreme (perhaps with a Mac mini) and a few wireless iSight cameras could be packaged as a powerful, yet comparatively low-cost video survelliance system.

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  • I think the bluetooth transfer rate will be significantly lower than that of Firewire. Rates vary depending on reporting source. The fastest I’ve seen for bluetooth was listed at 723Kbps where the iSight transfer rate 400Mbps.

  • Rex Hammock

    I didn’t say bluetooth, I said 80211n, which has a transfer rates of 200+ mbps — which, you know better than anyone, I have no idea what it means, but found it via a google search.

  • Rex Hammock

    Also, as noted, 80211n is what enables the video streaming of the AppleTV, so I feel its transfer rates are adequate, but again, I wouldn’t know a transfer rate if it slapped me on the face.

  • Was trying to point out that if the iSight didn’t have wires, then it wouldn’t be bluetooth, which you didn’t suggest. Should have said: I think that using a bluetooth transfer rate will be significantly lower than that of Firewire so they’ll have to use something like the 802.11n method (standard?) if they are planning on going wireless.

  • scott

    fyi – one of the possible reasons why apple pulled the isight: http://www.macworld.co.uk/news/index.cfm?NewsID=14979

    if they are intending on having isight-equipped cinema displays (something i don’t buy, completely), then their timing was absolutely horrible. where are the displays??!!?!?! i think there is something in the works for the next generation display, but it’s not isight. at a minimum, i think the next display will have to have (as should the imac, mb and mbp) an admin-level disable feature so companies can feel safe that their work is not easily visible to outsiders. a lot of places forbid cameraphones, so disabling isight shouldn’t be that big of an issue. obviously, just removing the driver is an insufficient solution. what i think they’re doing, and is the cause of the delay, relates directly to their acquisition of fingerworks and the completely amazing things being developed by jeff han*. what could be better than a true “cinema” display that opens up an entirely new world of opportunities for creative types! it would certainly play in to a lot of the iphone r&d, and i don’t think anybody expects the iphone ui and tech to remain solely on the iphone.

    interesting idea re the next generation isight camera. i like it. one quick question though, does it have to be 802.11n? if i remember correctly, the main reason behind using a pre-n setup on the apple tv was to pull down or stream hd content. it would be interesting to see if they stuck with that and made an ultraportable hdtv camera that would be slightly larger than a pen…or if they went with a wifi and 2.0+edr bluetooth solution (to account for instances when you don’t have a wireless signal). i guess the other possible solution would be to have a mini-sd cardslot to add storage. that way, you could just take it on its own, and get a gig or two of video. when you get home, plug it in and mount it as a drive or transfer it wirelessly. in any event, if they made it the size of a plantronics 840 headset and pen charger, it would be a total hit (and very expensive!).

    * jeff han is a research scientist at nyu, who made the tech nerd community tingle with excitement over the following video: http://cs.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/. for more information, jeff did a presentation that gives an explanation of what is going on, here: http://ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=j_han&flashEnabled=1. han has also recently started perceptive pixel, a company that will sell his display to “film studios and other operations where people can use them as high-tech blackboards to brainstorm on projects.” you can see his site here: http://www.perceptivepixel.com/

    note that larger versions are available to download on google video.

  • Good recovery, Patrick. 😉

    I don’t care if the new one uses a tin can and a string, I ever since I found out they pulled the iSights from the shelves I have needed one like nobody’s business.

  • Rex Hammock

    Megan, perhaps you can set up a system of mirrors so that you can talk with Patrick around a corner.

  • I really was looking into getting one so Ian could tutor my 15-year-old sister in math. She would scan in her homework and email it to him, and then they’d converse over iChat and be able to point things out to each other. We figure a one-time fee of a couple hundred bucks would be better spent than the $75 an hour the tutoring center stooges want.

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  • TimF

    “The external iSight has been withdrawn from sale in the European Union and the United States, according to AppleInsider, allegedly due to the introduction of the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive on 1 July 2006.”