Skype Adds 720p Video Chat Support And HDTV Integration

Skype has done a lot to revolutionize the way we communicate; there's hardly any arguing that. But largely the service has remained the same for years now. It's a VoIP system, and while it has arrived on new devices (like the iPhone), not much has changed in terms of functionality. Until this week.

From CES in Las Vegas, Skype has announced some pretty big changes that most any user (or future user) would be quite interested to know about. In an effort to keep up with the high-def world, Skype now supports up to 720p HD video calling on Windows, meaning that users can now video chat at up to 1280x720 so long as their broadband connections are quick enough to support the content. Of course, you'll also need an HD webcam, a 1.8GHz dual-core CPU and Skype 4.2 Beta for Windows, but that's the easy part, right? In face, both FaceVsion and In Store Solutions are both launching HD webcams that are tailor made to work with this new blend of Skype.

Potentially more interesting is the new big announcement: Skype on your HDTV. The feature is just what it sounds like, and it will allow free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls on select supporting HDTVs. Both LG and Panasonic will be offering "Skype-enabled HDTVs," with Skype's software loaded onto Panasonic's line of 2010 VIERA CAST HDTVs and LG's 26 new LCD and plasma HDTV models with NetCast--both of which should be available by the middle of this year. We know you were thrilled about that low-end DSL connection back in the day, but it looks like the world is asking you to upgrade to something quicker if you want to keep up with the times.

High Definition Skype Video Calling

The 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, giving individuals an even smoother and richer video calling experience. To make an HD video call, users will need a high-speed broadband connection, a new HD webcam, a PC with a 1.8 GHz dual-core processor and Skype 4.2 Beta for Windows.

“With HD-quality Skype video calls, we can bring our users even closer to the ones they love through an even richer, more meaningful video calling experience,” said Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype. “Imagine being able to see the sparkle of your grandchild’s eyes or the setting of your best friend’s engagement ring. Through the innovation of Skype’s engineers and our hardware partners, these scenarios are now possible without having to buy expensive equipment or software.”

New HD webcams are due to arrive in early 2010. At CES, faceVsion and In Store Solutions introduced new HD webcams that are optimized to work with Skype. In order to make HD video calling available to as many people as possible, the new Skype Certified™ HD webcams handle the video encoding and processing onboard, removing the need for a high-performance computer to encode the HD video.

faceVsion developed the FV TouchCam N1, an HD encoding webcam optimized for Skype video calling. Two versions of the faceVsion webcam will ship, beginning in February 2010: one with a microphone ($99) and one without ($69). In Store Solutions introduced two new HD encoding webcams, the FREETALK® HD PRO ($120) and FREETALK® HD PRO PLUS ($140), which will be available in March 2010. Both the faceVsion and FREETALK webcams will be available for purchase online via the Skype Shop.

The new HDTVs will deliver familiar Skype features including:

  • Free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls
  • 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

At CES, Skype 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 specially-designed HD webcams that are optimized for Skype video calls as separate accessories that can be plugged into the televisions. These webcams support 720p HD and include special microphones and optics that can pick up sound and video from a couch-distance.

Tags:  HDTV, Skype, VoIP, calling