VoIP specialist Skype has signed deals with LG and Panasonic to embed its client into next-generation TVs, finally putting video calling into the living room.
The deal promises that TVs featuring Skype functionality will be available from Panasonic and LG by the middle of 2010. Both companies will also sell branded web-cams to plug into their TVs, which will be capable of Skype audio and video calling, the latter at 720 progressive lines - technically HD quality.
Video calling on a TV is eminently sensible, especially as it's increasingly adopted by consumers who want to stay in touch with ever-more-distant family. But for most people, the complexity of living-room conferencing is too much, which is where Skype-on-a-TV fits in.
The service will be included in high-end models from both companies: those branded "VIERA CAST" by Panasonic and "NetCast Entertainment Access" by LG. Skype reckons you'll need at least 800Kb/sec each way to get 720 lines of goodness, though slower connection speeds will still allow lower-quality connections.
The service is typical Skype, including free connections to other Skype users and the ability to use SkypeOut minutes and such. How the service integrates into the viewing experience isn't clear and probably won't be until we see the sets themselves.
But this is very good news for Skype, as it puts video conferencing right in front of a demographic who might otherwise not encounter it. Not to mention that once they've got Skype on the TV they're unlikely to use anything else on a PC, which should create a loyal customer base of great value, assuming Skype can work out how to make money out of them. ®