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Skype eyes TV future with LG, Panasonic deals

update Company's VoIP service will be included for the first time into televisions, as Panasonic and LG TVs with Skype technology go on sale globally from mid-year.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

update Skype announced Tuesday its voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology will be embedded into Internet-enabled LG and Panasonic television sets and shipped worldwide by the first half of this year.

The partnership with the two Asian consumer electronics giants marks the first time the Skype service will be available on TVs.

A spokesperson from the company's Singapore office told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail: "With this announcement, we are enabling users to enjoy these free, high-quality video calls not only on their PCs but also on Internet-enabled TVs that they may eventually have at home."

The spokesperson added that the transition of the Skype service to TVs was a "logical" development, but did not say if the company was working to add other TV manufacturers to the list.

"As more and more consumer electronic devices are becoming more powerful and [have] Internet connectivity, Skype is a logical application to be embedded into these devices," she noted. "To date, we've seen this with all kinds of Internet-connected devices--mobile phones, cordless phones, videophones--and expect this to continue."

A statement from Panasonic on the Skype Web site said owners of its line of 2010 Viera Cast-enabled HDTVs (high-definition televisions) will be able to access Skype on the platform. The TVs are scheduled to launch next quarter.

In a separate statement, LG said 26 of its new LED, LCD and plasma HDTVs with the company's Netcast Entertainment Access technology, which allows users to access Internet content via their device, will allow consumers to make Skype voice and video calls.

To facilitate the VoIP calls, both manufacturers will sell an add-on camera accessory that has a microphone integrated with the imaging device. Skype said it recommends a 1Mbps (megabit per second) "symmetric broadband connection for the best possible video experience".

A Singapore-based spokesperson for LG said in an e-mail the company's Skype-enabled TVs will be available in Asia at the end of the first quarter, or the beginning of the second quarter. She added that more details will be available once the products are launched.

Panasonic also noted in an e-mail that its HDTVs with Skype are likely to be available in Asia "around August".

According to a Reuters report Monday, Polycom has partnered IBM to offer a high-definition videoconferencing product, which the pair will unveil at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

In August 2008, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers said the networking equipment vendor plans to bring its telepresence technology into the home. At the Consumer Electronics Show this week, the company announced it would begin testing the home version of its TelePresence product in the United States and France later this year.

In an e-mail to ZDNet Asia, a Cisco spokesperson noted that TelePresence "has become our fastest growing emerging technology ever", since it was introduced to the corporate environment three years ago. "We have learned a lot about how to combine high-quality video and audio to create a natural communications experience where the person you’re talking to feels like they are in the same room even when they’re thousands of miles away."

"With the company's entry into consumer video communications, Cisco will apply its "25 years of networking experience to insure the best possible home telepresence experience", she added. "Our product is designed to compensate for poor lighting conditions, and unpredictable audio conditions to provide an amazingly, natural experience.

"We also support standards like H.264 and believe that interoperating with other communities is essential for market success."

Cisco's spokesperson also welcomed the push by rivals such as Polycom and Skype, into the market. "We think it’s great that other companies are helping us validate the market for video communication in the consumer living room," she said.

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