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Video e-mail is readily available to anyone with Outlook 2003, a microphone (and a sound card to plug it into) and a Web cam.
The installation process
To get started with video e-mail, you first have to download an Outlook 2003 add-on that makes it video-aware. The download consists of a 2 MB, self-extracting executable. After extracting the file, just run the quick and simple Setup program.
When you finish installing the add-on, you'll notice that two buttons have been added to the Microsoft Outlook toolbar. One button is used to compose a video e-mail; the other is used to reply with video.
Sending someone a video e-mail is easy, but there is some bad news: your video can only be a maximum of 15 seconds. So sending someone a quick hello is no problem, but don't expect to record a 20-minute sales presentation.
Sending a video e-mail
- To send someone a video e-mail, simply click the Video Message button.
- Outlook will open a window that allows you to compose your video message.
- The video e-mail component requires you to select the duration of the recording. Fifteen seconds is selected by default, but you can choose to make a 5, 10, or 15-second recording.
- Click the red Record button and Outlook will start to record the video. It will automatically stop recording when the timer runs out, but you can also stop recording manually by clicking the Stop button.
- After you've recorded your video, select the Insert Video Into E-mail command from the Action menu. The video will be saved as an attachment in a new message.
- Now, just enter the recipient and the subject line and click Send.
Issues and limitations
What recipients see really depends on their setup. If they're running anything other than Outlook 2003, they won't be able to view your video -- period.
If they have a default Outlook 2003 installation, they will see a message telling them that they have received a video e-mail. The message will contain a link they can use to download the video component. This will allow them to view your message, as well as send video e-mail themselves.
When I first started experimenting with video e-mail last year, I had a lot of friends and colleagues that deleted the message I sent them, because they assumed that a spammer had spoofed my e-mail address. The fact that the message told them to click on a link to download a video component just seemed a little too suspicious (even though it was legitimate). The point is that, if you are planning on sending video e-mail, you might want to call or e-mail your recipients ahead of time to tell them what to expect.
Another thing to watch out for is sound. If you send a video message to someone that doesn't have speakers hooked up to their PC, the person won't be able to hear your message. He'll just see the video play silently. Additionally, if you're sending a video e-mail to someone at work, you might want to think about the content of your message prior to sending it. Sound travels, and unless the person has a private office, there is a good chance that co-workers will be able to hear your message when it is played.
Video e-mail is a cool toy, but it isn't really practical just yet. The 15-second limit and the fact that the feature is an add-on, rather than an included part of Microsoft Outlook, are standing in the way of more people using it. It wouldn't surprise me though if Microsoft enhanced video e-mail in the next version of Outlook. Since Microsoft changed the maximum database size in Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition from 16 GB to 75 GB in Service Pack 2, there's no reason to continue to limit videos to 15 seconds.
About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server, Exchange Server and IIS. Brien has served as the CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at http://www.brienposey.com.
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