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Cable Technology Feature Article

June 14, 2011

Comcast, Skype Bring Video Calls to Your TV

By Michelle Amodio, TMCnet Contributor

Comcast (News - Alert) subscribers and Skypers will be happy to hear that they will be able to use their TVs not just for watching, but for calling, too.

The cable provider teamed up with the video conferencing provider to offer a marriage of their services that don’t require a computer. Sort of. There is equipment necessary to make it happen, naturally.

Through the Skype (News - Alert) integration, which will launch “in the coming months,” Comcast customers will be able to make and receive video and audio calls, and send instant text messages, while watching TV. The companies’ news release says the Skype interface will allow people to continue watching their show at the same time.

“This service will be delivered on the Comcast customer’s HDTV through an adaptor box, a high-quality video camera, and a specially designed remote control that enables customers to text on Skype as well as control their television,” the companies said. “The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype.”

“Our unique relationship with Skype not only will change how our customers interact with their TV, but also will create new and meaningful ways to bring our customers closer to the people they care about,” said Neil Smit (News - Alert), president of Comcast Cable. “TV has evolved into a social experience, and 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.”

Comcast still hasn't decided on what the service will be called or how much they plan to charge for it. Rumor has it that the service will include “a high-definition camera for an optimal life-like viewing experience on a big TV screen” and “a downloadable smartphone/tablet app to connect while on-the-go.”

Comcast is also in its planning and testing stages of its IPTV (News - Alert) service.

The cable giant is according to the Wall Street Journal, running a trial IPTV service at MIT’s (News - Alert) campus this fall.

Comcast will try delivering TV channels using the same standard used to deliver data over the Internet, known as the Internet protocol, or IP. Comcast currently delivers channels over digital television technology that sends the video in streams to set-top boxes and isn't compatible with the Internet.

The company will expand testing to Comcast employees later this year, allowing them to watch live programming via a small box or another device that can connect to the Internet like a computer, tablet or Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox gaming console in their homes.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Michelle Amodio is a TMCnet contributor. She has helped promote companies and groups in all industries, from technology to banking to professional roller derby. She holds a bachelor's degree in Writing from Endicott College and currently works in marketing, journalism, and public relations as a freelancer.

Edited by Jennifer Russell