Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Skype TV Debuts at CES 2010, Live Two-Way Videoconferencing Comes to the Living Room

It was announced today at CES 2010, that Internet telephony Skype has partnered with HDTV makers Panasonic and LG to bring its popular video chat software to the living room. Starting in the spring, Panasonic and LG's broadband-enabled HDTVs will feature an embedded version of Skype 4.2. Consumers will need a HDTV-ready webcam with an integrated microphone and a recommended 1 Mbps symmetrical bandwidth for 720p HD calls at 30fps.

Several companies will be showing the HDTV-ready webcams which also integrate onboard video encoding. FaceVision developed two versions, one with a microphone ($US99) and one without ($US69). In Store has two HD encoding webcams, the Freetalk HD Pro ($US120) and the Freetalk HD Pro Plus ($US140). Both Panasonic and LG will offer optional plug and play webcams that can pick up sound and video from couch distance. Panasonic will support Skype in its VT and G series HDTVs in the US and LG will embed Skype in 26 new LCD and plasma HDTVs. Both LG and Panasonic are expected to demonstrate the service this week at CES.

Skype collaborated with Trinity Convergence on the software development and integration of its VeriCall voice and video engine with the Skype embedded SDK into the partner HDTVs. Mark Felice, co-founder and vice president of business development, Trinity Convergence said,
"With more than 520 million registered users, making Skype video calling available through connected devices is a natural evolution in its drive to bring video communications to the masses. We look forward to seeing Skype video proliferate on a wide range of embedded devices."
Some of the features on the HDTVs will include:
  • Free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls to other Skype users
  • Calls to landline or mobile phones at Skype's low rates
  • The option to receive inbound calls via a user's online Skype number
  • Skype voicemail, if it is set up
  • Being invited to participate in voice conference calls with up to 24 other parties
  • Support for up to 720p HD video calls, depending on the availability of high-speed broadband and a HD webcam

Skype CEO Josh Silverman said,
"Skype has made video calling easy, free and accessible. Today, 34% of all Skype-to-Skype calls include video. In addition, the number one reason why Skype users enjoy video calling is because it makes them feel more connected to friends and family. This is very exciting for us. TVs are a logical and natural platform for video communications. TVs will no longer be just the center of people’s entertainment experience, but have the potential to be the center of people’s communications experience.”
The NY Times reported, the domestic TV market shipped 33.86 million units during 2009, which is up 17 percent from 2008. According to forecast by market research firm iSuppli Corp., worldwide sales of internet TVs are predicted to grow to 241.2 million by 2012. Th trends in growth were attributed to the expanding availability of HD content and the declining cost to process HD video streams.

While much of the news today has been focused on the Google Nexus One, I think that this news is much more interesting in that it changes television from a passive one-way viewing experience into a two-way live video conversation platform.

For more information, visit: Skype on your TV