Skype Puts Video Calls in Your Face, On Your TV

By: Lee Rickwood

January 5, 2010

skypeSkype online video calls will now support high definition video, bringing a more TV like feel to the phone connection. And, with Skype embedded into new Internet-connected HDTVs, you’ll be able to make video calls, as they say, from the comfort of your living room slash home theatre.

This latest version of Skype for Windows can deliver up to 720p HD-quality video calling at 1280 x 720 resolution, at up to 30 frames per second.

Of course, to make an HD video call, you need a high-speed broadband connection, a new HD webcam, a PC with 1.8 GHz dual-core processor and Skype 4.2 Beta for Windows.

On new TVs, Skype will support voice and video calls to landline or mobile phones, with support for up to 720p HD video calls, again depending on broadband speeds and webcam capabilities.  Skype recommends uninterrupted high-speed broadband of at least one Mbps symmetrical bandwidth to achieve 720p HD-quality video calls on either a PC or television.

The HDTV enabled calls with receive inbound calls via a user’s online Skype number, and support Skype voicemail set-ups. Voice conferencing will be supported among up to 24 other callers.

New HD webcams are expected to be unveiled at CES, and on the market soon. Companies like faceVsion and In Store Solutions have already introduced new HD webcams that are optimized to work with Skype. The designated Skype Certified HD webcams handle the video encoding and processing onboard, so no outboard encoder is required.

faceVsion developed the FV TouchCam N1, an HD encoding webcam optimized for Skype video calling. Two versions of the faceVsion webcam are expected to ship next month: one with a microphone ($99 USD) and one without ($69 USD). In Store Solutions introduced two new HD encoding webcams, called Freetalk Pro, which should be available in March for around $120-$140.

Skype has also announced partnerships with LG and Panasonic to offer Skype–enabled HDTVs. Skype software will be embedded into Panasonic’s line of 2010 VIERA CAST-enabled HDTVs and LG’s 26” new LCD and plasma HDTVs with NetCast Entertainment Access. Both lines are expected to be available in mid-2010. Both LG and Panasonic will offer 720p HD webcams, optimized for Skype video calls as separate accessories that can be plugged into the televisions, and with special microphones and optics said to pick up sound and video from a “couch-distance”.

However close or far, the seeming popularity of Skype video calling is evident in that some 34% of Skype-to-Skype calls now include video. How many TV shows will now include calls in anyone’s guess.

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