Cable giant Comcast and Internet-voice pioneer Skype are teaming up for a new venture in video calling. Under the new partnership, Comcast customers will be able to receive Skype calls--both video and audio--on their television. In a future where video calls are made from the family room during Jeopardy, both companies stand to gain, but I'm just not sure that future is as close as they seem to think it is.
Comcast & Skype's HD Video Calling For Televisions
Okay, lets take a look at the details first. For obvious reasons, this is only going to work for Comcast customers--at least until Skype strikes similar deals with the other cable providers. And those Comcast customers will need to buy a special adapter box. They'll also need the HD camera. And I suppose the whole thing would be a fruitless exercise if the consumer didn't have an HD television--those consumers are dwindling in numbers, but there are still an awful lot of them.
One of the coolest sounding features of the service is that it will be something akin to picture-in-picture. If you're watching television, and a Skype call comes in, you can answer it in a smaller pop-up window while keeping your program on in the background (which I think will lead to some pretty distracted Skype users).
Comcast also apparently has plans for a special remote that will be used with the Skype service, including a keyboard for typing.
Why I Doubt The Skype-Comcast Service Will Take Off
Look, Internet-connected television is clearly where things are headed, for online video in general and probably for video calling as well. But it's approaching slowly. If Google TV didn't take off, I have a hard time seeing this take off.
For starters, a lot of people don't want to be interrupted by a phone call while watching TV. I'm one of them. I watch television to get away... to relax. If someone calls me, I don't mind talking to them, but I've never really found myself wishing that call could come in on the TV itself. I'm not sure it fills a need or solves any obvious problem.
I'm also not sure consumers are going to go wild for all the extra add-ons and expenses. Cable is already pretty expensive for most people.
But it does sound cool. And like the science fiction films of my youth, I tend to think we are headed for a future of HD video calling on televisions. I'm just not sure we're there yet. But maybe I'm in the minority?