Free video calling service Skype will power real-time voice and video communications on the next generation of Xbox consoles, according to a recent job posting by Microsoft.
The brief for the role of Lead Program Manager on Skype for Xbox states: “Xbox is a fundamental lynchpin of Skype’s living-room strategy, and we are focused on enabling amazing new in-game and in-console voice and video experiences for the next generation of Xbox. This is a crucial initiative for Xbox, and it is time-critical given the hardware lead times involved.”
Since forking out US$ 8.5bn for Skype last year, Microsoft has said little on its plans for the world’s most popular free VoIP provider, which had 663mn registered users as of September 2011. However, integration with the next-generation Xbox console (dubbed Xbox 720 by the gaming community and expected to land mid-2013) looks like a perfect fit.
Once combined with the Kinect peripheral (essentially a powerful webcam with motion tracking technology), it will enable gamers to engage more deeply with their online opponents (such as seeing their opponent whilst playing), and allow Microsoft to continue its push into the market for connected home services.
The Xbox 360 games console has become a powerful and popular connected TV device via incremental software updates, thanks to the partnerships which Microsoft has forged with various content and operator partners around the world, and US analyst house Forrester Research believes that the company has already started to run away with the TV market (more details here).
Skype integration would enable the Xbox to offer video calling on the television screen, and thus encourage usage of the device by family members who might otherwise not be interested in a games console.
In combination with the advanced gesture control capabilities of the Kinect peripheral, which is likely to allow users to control their video services on the next-generation Xbox without the need for a remote control, video calling would complete the package of a superbly well-rounded connected entertainment device for all members of the family.
We spoke to Theo Short, Product Manager for Living Room Products at Skype, during the recent IP&TV World Forum 2012 event in London, who told us that there are a number of advantages for making video calls on the television set (rather than a computer or mobile device): intimacy, simplicity and immediacy.