Skype-Enabled HDTVs Coming from Panasonic, LG

Skype announced that high-definition video calling will be coming to televisions by the middle of this year. Partners Panasonic and LG will release HDTVs embedded with Skype software, as well as Webcams optimized for Skype video calls.

Skype announced Jan. 5 that its popular video service will soon be making the leap from desktops to high-definition television screens.

In conjunction with partners LG and Panasonic, Skype-enabled HDTVs will arrive in mid-2010 and enable users with high-speed broadband and an HD Webcam-also being offered by LG and Panasonic-to enjoy free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls; calls to landlines or mobile phones at Skype rates; the ability to receive an inbound call using a Skype number; Skype voicemail; and voice conferencing with up to 24 other parties.

With the high-speed connection and Webcam, video calls will be able to support up to 720p HD video calls.

"The popularity of Skype video calling has increased substantially in recent years, with an average of 34 percent of Skype-to-Skype calls now including video," said Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype, in a statement. "For many people who are video calling on Skype, they have expressed a desire to communicate with their friends and family from somewhere comfortable, and preferably on a big screen. Logically, this led us to the development of Skype embedded on HDTVs."

Panasonic will embed Skype software in its line of 2010 Viera Cast-enabled HDTVs, and LG will do the same with its 26 new LCD and plasma HDTVs with NetCast Entertainment Access. Webcams from both manufacturers will be optimized for Skype video calls and will plug into the televisions.

Skype expects up to 5 million Skype-enabled TVs to be in living rooms around the world in 2010, Jin Kim, Skype's head of business development, said in a video on the Skype blog.

Skype also announced Jan. 5 that the newest version of Skype for Windows can deliver up to 720p HD-quality video calling at a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels. To make an HD video call, users will need a high-speed connection, a PC with a 1.8GHz dual-core processor, Skype 4.2 Beta for Windows and a new HD Webcam, which will be arriving in early 2010.

According to Skype, the HD Webcams "handle the video encoding and processing onboard, removing the need for a high-performance computer to encode the HD video."

Two versions of an HD Webcam from FaceVsion, the FV TouchCam N1, will begin shipping in February, one with a microphone for $99 and one without for $69.

"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 Silverman.