Skype and Logitech tackle video-call quality

Skype and Logitech tackle video-call quality

Summary: Frame rates and resolution are improved for those using Skype with certain new Logitech webcams, the companies claim

TOPICS: Networking

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.

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"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 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.

Topic: Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Why the unnecessary restriction?

    In the Skype 3.6 beta releases, it was possible to manually activate the higher resolution video with cameras other than the three Logitech cameras mentioned in this article. It was proven in the Skype User Forums that a variety of other webcams were capable of 640x480 resolution video, both from Logitech and from other manufacturers. With the 3.6 production release, this manual activation capability has been removed, so only users with one of the three specific Logitech cameras will be able to benefit from higher resolution video. It is surprising that Skype has decided to relegate the majority of their existing users who own webcams to "second class status", apparently only because of a marketing agreement with Logitech. If the Skype/Logitech "High Quality Video" is truly superior, as they say, then why not let it stand on its own merits, and allow users with other webcams to benefit from the improved resolution? One would think that this would encourage more webcam owners to start using Skype for video calls, and probably encourage more users to buy the "better" Logitech cameras, when they see how good High Quality Video can be.
  • Why the unnecessary restriction?

    I have just read the post by J.A.Watson and could not agree more strongly with his comments.

    It would seem that Skype and Logitech are now not only in the Web camera and VoiP business but also in the business of telling us what we can and cannot use on our PC's. What right have they got to do this, as far as I know none, because I was under the impression we hopefully live in a free society and that, in my book also means freedom of choice.

    Yes Skype have, as they say "got into bed with Logitech" and as far as a business sense goes there is nothing wrong with that if both companies can make money out of it and they seem to think they can, otherwise one would assume this would not of happened.

    This jumping into bed is all very well but why should we be told by both Skype and Logitech that HQ video will only work with their products, by doing this they have potentially alienated millions of paying customers and in my mind that is not good business practise.

    There are other product out there that will do the same thing with any camera that is capable of 640x480 and 24Fps.

    I ran a test the other day with the new Skype 3.6 on a bog standard system with the following spec
    Windows XP Pro SP2
    AMD Athlon 64 3000+
    2.00 GHz 1.00GB Ram
    Philips ToUcam PCVC 740K
    and received HQ video without the use of a Logitech camera. Admitted the test was done during daylight hours and outside in sun light but, I am sure that if there were sufficient high quality lighting in the room at night HQ video could and would be achieved.

    Another thing we have to consider which goes without saying is the type and quality of your Internet connection, yes you need broadband and yes you need good bandwidth whether you are just using VoiP for audio only or audio and video and there is no argument from me over that fact, but you do not need a Logitech camera to get HQ Video but I will agree you do need Skype 3.6 because it was designed for this type of video.

    So come on Skype it is time you took a very very hard look at the VoiP world and allowed your paying customers freedom of choice otherwise I think you will loose many many more that you might of already done going by the many comments on the Skype forum.