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Cable Technology Feature Article

January 09, 2012

Evidence Surfaces of Comcast Xfinity's Skype Webcam

By Tammy Wolf, TMCnet Web Editor

As much of the tech world becomes infiltrated with mumblings of what gadgets will take the spotlight at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, today’s news out of Comcast (News - Alert) about an Xfinity-branded webcam is sure to get everyone talking.

Some investigative work by consumer and technology markets research group Wireless Goodness has uncovered some evidence that a Skype (News - Alert) webcam built specifically for Comcast’s cable boxes is on its way. According to detailed reports from media sources, the new set-top Xfinity-branded camera has been spotted in the FCC (News - Alert) database under the code-name “Astro.”

Wireless Goodness’ findings confirm last summer’s rumors that Skype and Comcast were beginning to perform tests on a new video conferencing service that would ultimately be offered to all Comcast Xfinity subscribers. Now, Wireless Goodness has revealed some spec details about “Astro,” which is expected to cost users an additional $10 per month once it launches.

“The device consists of a camera and microphone accessory that attaches to the top of a TV, and a small adapter box which manages connections between Xfinity’s set top box and the camera array. The system also comes with a QWERTY remote that should make typing Skype messages pretty painless. User manuals for Skype for TV show a 10-foot style interface that does a good job of bringing Skype’s interface to a TV screen. You can make audio or video calls, as well as send instant messages,” wrote Wireless Goodness in a posting.

Many tech experts have also gotten their hands on images showing the setup, which also consists of an Ethernet port, front-mounted SD slot, two USB jacks on the camera’s rear, as well as HDMI pass-through.

Comcast’s penetration into the video conferencing market comes hot on the heels of Cisco (News - Alert) pulling the plug on its Umi home video conferencing unit. The product, which was released only 14 months ago, shocked consumers and analysts with its initial price point of $600 paired with a $25 monthly service fee.

Skype General Manager Jonathan Christensen fundamentally predicted a Umi flop all that way back in October of 2010, when he called the in-home conferencing hardware a “really big commitment for a consumer in these days when consumers are used to paying very, very little.”

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO East 2012, taking place Jan. 31-Feb. 3 2012, in Miami, FL. ITEXPO (News - Alert) 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. For more information on registering for ITEXPO registration click here.

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Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell