Ah, the Ojo Video Phone. Engadget posted the rumor that the phone and service have now gone kaput. And I can confirm it. After two plus years, the Ojo in my living room has finally reached the end of its run.

Because I work for Motorola, I became the proud owner of two Ojos back in late 2005. This was right before Motorola gave up on the product and turned it back over to WorldGate, its original manufacturer. I was the coveted demographic for the video phone, a new parent and daughter of new grandparents, all with broadband connections. And despite a few hiccups here and there, we would have made a fantastic case study. Until last week, we used the Ojos regularly. My two-year-old has literally grown up seeing her grandparents on the phone every few days. Now it looks like we’ll have to default to webcams, a sorry substitute.

So why didn’t the Ojo survive? There are many, many reasons.

  1. No interoperability. You could only talk to an Ojo from another Ojo.
  2. An original retail price of $1,600 for a pair of Ojos, plus a monthly fee. (Price came way down later on)
  3. Timing. As widespread as broadband is, there are still quite a few grandparents without it or without the tech savvy to do more with a broadband connection than check email. Maybe in five more years.
  4. Routers. It was virtually impossible to make the Ojo compatible with every router on the market, which means a lot of customers could not get their Ojos to work at all without another new piece of hardware.
  5. Wired connection. The Ojo only worked with an Ethernet line, and while being tethered wasn’t a big deal (you could still move the Ojo around for different perspectives), finding a place to put the Ojo within Ethernet reach was. We ran an Ethernet cord up from our basement, through a vent to our living room.

Some time soon I believe video will become an expected, add-on feature for all of our phones. And then we’ll probably hook them into our TVs for big-screen display. And then we’ll be able to interact with the video, marking up our screens like any WebEx presentation. And more, and more, and more. It’s all coming.

Just not for the Ojo.