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Skype Launches HD Video Calling

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1 Skype Launches HD Video Calling on Wed Jan 06, 2010 7:33 am

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Skype has launched high-definition video calling in the latest version of its PC client, and has announced partnerships that will see the popular internet telephony service built into HD television sets.

However, the service will require not only new equipment, but also broadband uplink speeds that are at least double the average provided to most UK users.

Skype 4.2 Beta for Windows supports 30-frames-per-second 720p video calling at a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels, Skype said on Tuesday. To get this video quality, users need an HD webcam and a PC with a 1.8GHz dual-core processor or better.

The beta was first released in December, but without mention of its HD capabilities.
Skype said that "uninterrupted high-speed broadband of at least 1Mbps symmetrical bandwidth" is needed to support HD video calling on PCs and TVs.

According to broadband speed statistics for December 2009, published by comparison site Broadband.co.uk, the average uplink speed in the UK is just 0.467Mbps. A Skype representative was unable to comment on whether this means its HD video calling service will be unusable for most UK customers.

In addition, several new models of Skype-certified HD webcams are set to be introduced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, from companies such as faceVsion and In Store Solutions. Video encoding and processing for the HD calls is handled by the new webcams themselves, rather than by the user's PC, according to Skype.

Skype has signed up LG and Panasonic to produce HDTVs that incorporate its software, with the sets expected to go on sale in spring 2010. Panasonic is building the technology into its 2010 Viera Cast-enabled TVs, while LG will put Skype in its new NetCast-enabled LCD and plasma sets; both of these lines natively support internet content.

"The popularity of Skype video calling has increased substantially in recent years with an average of 34 percent of Skype-to-Skype calls now including video," the company's president Josh Silverman said in a statement. "For many people who are video calling on Skype, they have expressed a desire to communicate with their friends and family from somewhere comfortable, and preferably on a big screen. Logically, this led to the development of Skype embedded on HDTVs."

Both LG and Panasonic will be producing special HD webcams that can be plugged into the new TVs, Skype said.

The last time Skype significantly upgraded its video-calling quality was in November 2007, when it launched a range of 'high-quality' webcams in conjunction with Logitech. Those webcams allowed for VGA-resolution video calling at 640 x 480 pixels.


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