US cableco Comcast has added the popular video calling service Skype to its triple-play service Xfinity, enabling customers to make video calls for free on their TV, as well as send and receive instant messages while watching TV at the same time.
Initially available in Boston and Seattle, the company will eventually roll out the service nationwide. Before the end of this week, it will become available in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Augusta, Chicago, Detroit, Harrisburg, Indianapolis, Miami and Pittsburgh.
“We’re continuing to build innovative communication services like Skype on Xfinity that will allow our customers to interact in new ways with the people they care about the most,” said Tony Werner, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Comcast Cable. “Through our close collaboration with Skype, we focused on delivering a new product that brings family and friends together through a high-quality video calling experience like never before.”
The service requires an Xfinity Internet service, an HDMI-capable Comcast cable set-top box and a Skype account. Skype on Xfinity is delivered to the Comcast customer’s HDTV through an all-in-one kit which includes an adaptor box, a high-quality video camera, and a specially designed remote control that enables customers to instant message with one or more friends on Skype as well as control the volume of their television.
For Skype-to-Skype calls or instant messages, the other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype; they simply need to be logged into their Skype account.
Comcast’s Tony Werner took to the company’s blog yesterday to categorically deny that it prioritises transmission of content for its ‘Xfinity TV’ service to the Xbox 360 games console over other traffic on its network – full details here.
Theo Short, Product Manager for Digital Living Room Products at Skype UK, told us during a video interview at the recent IP&TV World Forum event in London that despite it being early days for Skype in the connected TV market, users do seem to be very keen on making video calls via their television. Full video interview here