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.

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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?

  • Sudha Krishna

    Some good points there Mr. Scott - but consider my experience with skype and HD - I hooked up the sony PS3 camera to my mac mini which was connected to my HDTV. The video calls via Skype were excellent and I did them often especially with my close friends and family. Tthere is the germ of something there but I agree the execution by Comcast seems clunky.

  • Jane Gergel

    thanks for info, but i would recommend to use this tool to record skype calls, i enjoy it!))

  • jessica@cable internet

    while this technology will work in bringing families and friends, who are scattered all over the world, closer together, there is a down side. When answering the phone in the privacy of your own home, you usually don't care what you look like. No one dresses up to make a phone call, but with the Skype calling, you will need to put your best face forward. While the new Skype - Comcast video calling does give you the option of turning it off when you want to use the phone the conventional way, the video calling feature will require a little extra primping on your part, even for your home.