Skype today announced support for Skype video calls on PCs in 720p high definition (HD), as well as Skype software embedded into Internet-connected widescreen televisions from its consumer electronics manufacturer partners.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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
Skype recommends uninterrupted high-speed broadband of at least 1 Mbps symmetrical bandwidth to achieve 720p HD-quality video calls on either a PC or television.
New Full HD System Video Conferencing System
In related news, Panasonic introduced a new HD Visual Communications System at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
In addition to transmitting high definition video and audio, the system employs H.264 video compression technology and requires roughly half the bandwidth of competitive systems. It allows for Full HD images to be displayed on a wide range of HD monitors, from small-scale desktop LCDs all the way up to a 150" HD Plasma, or even projected with an HD projector on a large screen at a conference presentation or an educational institution. It also allows for multiple HD cameras to be utilized, so a second camera can be used to zoom in and share detailed images of things. A third option allows full-motion, high-resolution video to be transmitted over the system from laptops connected to the system.
The HD Visual Communications system is comprised of a Panasonic 50-inch Full HD VIERA Plasma TV, the codec, or main system unit, two HD Video Cameras, 360? HD Audio microphone, VPN Router and a Remote Control, along with standard cables and accessories. It includes on-screen guidance and one-touch memory keys for frequent meetings, and also includes both on-site and remote technical support from Panasonic.
The Panasonic KX-VC500 HD Visual Communications Solution will be available in the spring of 2010.