Skype Offers High-Definition Video Calls

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Skype has arrived in the living room after it announced that its VoIP client is to be embedded in a range of HDTVs

Skype has launched high-definition video calling in the latest beta of its PC client, and at the same time the company has announced it is embedding its service on a number of high definition televisions.

The company said that by using Skype 4.2 beta for Windows, users will be able to make Skype video calls in 720p HD. However, they will need the right equipment beforehand. This includes a high-speed broadband connection (Skype recommends a sustained 1 MB/s symmetrical bandwidth connection or higher); as well a new HD webcam and a PC with a 1.8 GHz dual-core processor.

“The latest beta version of Skype for Windows now supports HD-quality video (1280 x 720 resolution at up to 30 frames per second), giving you an even smoother and richer video calling experience than ever before,” said the company.

Three Skype certified HD webcams are to arrive soon, which the company says will be optimised for HD video calling.

Skype 4.2 beta has been able for download since December.

Meanwhile Skype is moving into the living room with the announcement of its popular voice over IP (VoIP) service will start appearing as a built-in option on a number of forthcoming HD television sets.

“Thanks to our TV manufacturing partners LG and Panasonic, we’ve been able to embed Skype in the latest generation of internet-connected widescreen HDTVs,” said the company.

“They’ve been tested in our labs in Tallinn, Estonia by our team of engineers to make sure that everything works well together, and once you’ve bought yours, all you’ll need to do is get hold of a TV-ready webcam – developed specially to work with your TV and with Skype,” it said.

The webcams will include specially-designed microphones so that users do not have to leave the sofa or shout, according to the company, and the Panasonic and LG TVs will also allow HD video calls.

Once again, Skype is recommending a sustained 1 MB/s symmetrical bandwidth connection or higher for this.

Unfortunately, this is likely to mean that the majority of the UK will not be able to use the HD video calling, on either their PCs or TVs, due to the limited roll out of fibre in the UK. Comparison website Broadband.co.uk for example has published its broadband speed statistics for December, which showed that the average uplink speed in the UK is just 0.467MB/s.

In other news, Polycom has said it will work with IBM to introduce video conferencing services aimed at consumers. The two companies are apparently planning to unveil a HD video conferencing product later this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.