Skype, Comcast Partner to Bring HD Video Calling to TV

Comcast customers can make and receive video and audio via Skype on a television while watching a TV show.

Communications giant Comcast and voice over IP provider Skype announced that the companies have entered into a strategic partnership that will enable Comcast customers to communicate with family and friends through HD video calling on their television. Comcast users will soon be able to make and receive Skype video calls from their television, whether their contacts use Skype on their home TVs, PCs or compatible smartphones and tablet computers.

Through the arrangement, Comcast customers will be able to experience widescreen HD video calling. With Skype, they can share conversations and have the ability to communicate with hundreds of millions of Skype users across the globe. As real-time video communication becomes a more integral part of the way people connect, Skype and Comcast will bring high-quality video calling experience to millions of homes, the companies said in a joint release.

"Our unique relationship with Skype not only will change how our customers interact with their TV, but also will create new and meaningful ways to bring our customers closer to the people they care about," said Neil Smit, president of Comcast Cable. "TV has evolved into a social experience, and Comcast and Skype will be delivering a product that personalizes the TV experience even more, and brings friends and family together through the biggest screen in their homes."

Comcast customers will be able to make and receive Skype video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a television while watching a TV show at the same time, and accept incoming calls during a TV show with the help of Caller ID, as well as make and receive video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a compatible mobile phone or tablet.

Users will also be able to import friends to their address book from their Facebook, Outlook, Gmail and smartphone contact lists, find them on Skype and see when contacts are online and available to talk. The service will be delivered on the Comcast customer's HDTV through an adaptor box, a high-quality video camera, and a specially designed remote control that enables customers to text on Skype as well as control their television. The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype, the release noted.

In addition, customers will be able to access mobile features through Comcast's Xfinity Mobile app, and have conversations by switching from one compatible device (like a smartphone, tablet or television) to another. The companies said customer trials for the offering would begin in the coming months, and further product details would be made available later this year.

"We are pleased to announce this partnership with Comcast," said Skype CEO Tony Bates. "By combining Comcast's broad living room reach with Skype's innovative communications platform and worldwide community of users, we can bring video calling into the heart of the home allowing people to share life's experiences both big and small."

In May, Microsoft and Skype announced that they have entered into a agreement in which Microsoft will acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in cash from the investor group led by Silver Lake. Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and an array of Windows devices, while Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.