Under the deal, New York-based iClips has developed for NBCi "My Video Center," which includes tools to create, send, store and share streaming video messages. NBCi customers will have free access to the service. iClips said that because it uses streaming video, customers are not burdened with huge files, and recipients don't have to bother with long download times to view a video e-mail message.
"NBCi is committed to delivering broadband solutions to our members to enhance their online experiences," Josh Mailman, vice president of product at NBCi, said in a statement. (CNET Networks, publisher of News.com, has a stake in NBCi.)
The announcement is the latest effort by companies to make digital video more accessible to the mainstream market, especially as faster Internet connections and a new breed of cheap digital video cameras become available. NBCi's deal with iClips follows a similar move by Yahoo, which launched media software based on Microsoft technology last year.
In August, Excite@Home launched a broadband application that lets people create, edit and show their own Internet videos. Other companies, such as CyberTainment, RadicalMail and Digital Media Works, are also unveiling technologies aimed at delivering video clips. They tout compression technology and streaming video techniques that let people pipe video through ordinary dial-up connections.
Similarly, the "My Video Center" service requires only a dial-up connection. By using a Webcam or camcorder along with iClips proprietary tools, NBCi users can create their own streaming video messages and store more than an hour of video. No attachments are used, but a link is provided that pops up an NBCi-branded video.
Some analysts say that although video e-mail may be a big opportunity for video swapping, consumer access to the technologies may be an issue before video e-mail reaches prime time.
"The barrier to entry is you need to have a computer that has video inputs, and that limits it to about 10 percent of the notebooks out there," said Richard Doherty, director of research for The Envisioneering Group, a Seaford, N.Y.-based technology testing and market research firm.
Doherty added that video e-mail is used more for job interviews, wedding videos, birth announcements and graduation videos. "There is more business traffic than consumer (traffic), but everyone's hoping that the consumer side will come up," he said.
iClips Chief Executive Michael Diamant countered that because e-mail is popular, the most valuable use of that technology is to integrate it with publishing, which includes home pages, message boards and posting resumes.
"We think adding video to Web publishing will be...as common as adding text," Diamant said. "It may be a few years off, but it will be as common as that."