Comcast and Skype are entering into a strategic partnership that will enable Comcast customers to make HD videoconferencing phone calls using their televisions for the screen.
Comcast subscribers will be able to make and receive Skype video and audio calls and to send instant messages via Skype on a television while watching TV, as previously reported.
Comcast Cable President Neil Smit said the company has not figured out a price for the service yet, and the service will be tested this year and commercialized next year.
To use the service, Comcast customers will require an adapter box, a video camera and a new remote control that enables customers to text on Skype, as well as control their television.
The new box, which plugs into the set-top, will be leased, not sold, Smit said. Eventually, the functionality of that box will be integrated directly into set-tops.
The camera will capture 30 fps video and will incorporate four microphones. Video calls will start with SD video quality, then will gradually improve to HD.
The new remote will have several buttons on the front dedicated to videoconferencing and a Qwerty keyboard embedded in the back.
The person on the other end of the call can be another Comcast TV customer or anyone using Skype on any other device. The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype.
In addition, customers will be able to access mobile features through Comcast's Xfinity Mobile app, and they can continue conversations by switching from one compatible device (e.g., smartphone, tablet or television) to another.
"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," Smit said. "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."