Comcast: Skype On TV ‘Soon’

by Gaurav Kheterpal on June 14, 2011

Television is no longer the idiot box. In fact, TV is now seen as the next big opportunity to provide a truly interactive experience to mass audiences. Online TV is gradually emerging as a norm rather than exception and terms such as Triple Play and Quadruple Play are no longer limited to books and white papers.

So, what’s next for the TV industry? Comcast believes it’s high time for the goodies of the Internet world to come to your living room. The company will begin offering Skype video calling to customers next year.

Comcast subscribers equipped with special gear will be able to use the Web video messaging service on their HD sets “soon.” While there’s no word yet on the pricing/video quality of the proposed Skype HD service, one thing’s for sure – the TV is talking to you may soon no longer be a sign of insanity.

The service will enable Comcast customers to make and receive Skype video calls from their television to any other Skype user — on TVs, PCs, compatible smartphones or tablets — as well as send instant messages while watching TV at the same time. To avail this service, subscribers will be able to rent a kit from Comcast that includes a webcam and an adapter that plugs into the TV. Comcast will also provide a new cable box remote that includes a keyboard on the back, for typing chat messages.

The Comcast Skype service is expected to further intensify competition in the keenly contested consumer video segment. Last October, Cisco Systems unveiled Cisco Umi (pronounced You-Me), a consumer oriented telepresence and telecommunications system that allows people to connect with each other via video-conferencing on their HD televisions. A WSJ report published in March suggested that Cisco is gearing up to launch TelePresence products for the consumer market in order to challenge the supremacy of free services such as Skype.

On the other hand, Skype has left no stone unturned to juice up its video conferencing portfolio. In March, the ‘Big Daddy of Internet Telephony’ announced a new strategic partnership with Citrix Systems to leverage the latter’s GoToMeeting technology to revamp its web and audio collaboration services. With solid financial backing from Microsoft and a breakthrough partnership with Comcast, Skype now seems to have an upper hand in the battle for supremacy in the consumer video segment.

Comcast said customer trials for the Skype service will begin in the next few months. A formal announcement on the Comcast Skype partnership is expected today. Financial terms of the partnership between Comcast and Skype were not disclosed.

Interestingly, Skype has already made its presence felt in the living room. A number of Internet-enabled TVs from Panasonic and Samsung have Skype pre-bundled. With all due respect to Cisco, Umi Telepresence failed to impress. Can the Skype Comcast duo go one step better and revolutionize the home video conferencing segment for good? Only time will tell.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. Follow TheTelecomBlog.comby: RSS,TwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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