Skype has announced enhancements to the quality of its video calls, but only for users of certain new webcams from Logitech.
Using the moniker "High Quality" (HQ), the enhanced video runs at a frame rate of 30fps rather than Skype's usual 15fps, and at VGA resolution (640x480 pixels) rather than QVGA (320x240 pixels).
The boost comes as the result of collaboration between the engineering teams of Skype and the peripherals manufacturer Logitech. As a result, it will only work on an upcoming version of Skype — 3.6 — and through the use of Logitech's QuickCam Pro 9000, QuickCam Pro for Notebooks or QuickCam Orbit AF cameras, all of which sport Carl Zeiss optics and high-speed autofocus capabilities.
Users also need to be running Skype on a dual-core machine and over a broadband connection.
"We believe HQ will be the next industry standard for video calling," said Gareth O'Loughlin, Skype's head of hardware services, last Wednesday. O'Loughlin admitted to ZDNet.co.uk that HQ was no match for the high definition (HD) capabilities of more expensive, enterprise-oriented rivals such as Cisco's TelePresence or Lifesize's Express, but pointed out that Skype's offering "does not require £10k worth of equipment in a room somewhere".
"We don't get phased by what others are doing in a different space," O'Loughlin added, while suggesting that small-business users could afford to put one of the new Logitech webcams on every computer in their organisation.
According to Skype, one in four of the free calls made over its network is made using video capabilities.