Comcast, Skype to bring HD video calling to your TV

Comcast has reached an agreement with Skype to bring its HD video calling capabilities into your living room television.

Comcast and Skype today said they were starting customer trials to help transform home television sets into video calling centers that would let users dial up their friends’ Skype accounts and chat with them live while watching a TV show. Comcast says the Skype service will be delivered right to a customer’s TV through an adapter box that comes with a video camera and a remote control that will give customers access to video calling and instant messaging. The video calling service will also be available on any PCs, tablets or smartphones that are hooked up with Comcast Internet service.

In his prepared statement announcing the deal Tuesday, Comcast Cable President Neil Smit pitched the new Skype integration as a way to make watching television more interactive. So for instance, the new service could let you watch your favorite football team with a friend who’s on the other side of the country.

“TV has evolved into a social experience,” he said. “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.”

Skype is the most popular over-the-top voice and video provider in the world, with more than 600 million registered users around the globe. The company was owned by eBay from 2005 until 2009, when the online auction house announced plans to spin the company off. Skype’s independence has proven short-lived, however, as Microsoft purchased Skype for $8.5 billion last month to enhance its mobility portfolio. Gartner analyst Leif-Olof Wallin said at the time that the Skype acquisition would also give Microsoft more of a foothold into the consumer voice and video market.

“Skype fits very well into the consumer VoIP and Video part with an extremely strong brand name, so strong that it’s become a verb in many parts of the world,” he said. “The world is becoming more and more mobile so mobile is an important piece, but the ‘uber trend’ is Microsoft going consumer.”

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