Home > Technology & Telecom > Will Skype TV Put Pressure on Entry-Level Video Conferencing?

Will Skype TV Put Pressure on Entry-Level Video Conferencing?

Does your widescreen TV do Skype? Today it might not, but the company has landed deals with LG, Panasonic and Samsung to embed its software into HDTVs, with units shipping today in Asia and expected to go on sale down at the local Best Buy in the next couple of months. Buy the right model TV, and the optional optimized Webcam, add a sufficient network connection – 1 Mbps symmetric recommended – and you’re in business.
Part of this advancement is a technological arms race necessity. TV manufacturers have slowed at offering picture quality enhancements, so the next step is to offer differentiation/added-value through more features. Last year, manufacturers introduced Ethernet ports and basic Internet widgets for stock quotes, weather reports and the like – see where this is going? More capable processors, more RAM and flash memory, throw in the bow to Moore’s Law and the “boob tube” morphs into a computer with a really big display.
 
At CES 2010, Panasonic and LG demonstrated Skype on their respective TV sets. Panasonic will initially limit Skype to its high-end model while LG declared it that all of its 37-inch and larger sets would have the capability in the second half of this year; this is especially interesting since LG sells a whole lot of product to the hotel industry.    
 
As Skype continues to HDTVs for phone calls and home videoconferencing, I have to wonder how long it will be before business users large and small will be tempted by a combination of off-the-shelf hardware, Skype’s talent to walk through (fire)walls, and an already-built-in directory service.
 
The net result of Skype on TV is a product that is a step up in capability above a desktop- style webcam and PC combination, one that begs to be put into a side-by-side comparison with a dedicated “professional”-grade 720P videoconferencing setup for small to medium-sized conference rooms. The Skype on TV combo may not have all the extra bells and whistles as a dedicated videoconferencing setup, but for simple point-to-point small group discussions, it’s likely the easiest and most affordable option available.
 
Ironically, a potential selling point for Skype on TV usage in a small to medium-sized environment is the ability to upgrade (i.e. plug in) more expensive name-brand gear and use the flat-screen just as a display. Users can purchase a Skype-loaded HDTV and a dedicated video camera for the conference room as the first step and migrate upward to more expensive functionality, such as desktop sharing, as needed.
 
Skype on TV’s other key advantage is the ability to simply and directly make a point-to-point connection by using Skype user IDs to other Skype clients without having to fuss with SIP URLs and SIP interoperability for HD voice and video data.   One of the dirty little secrets of the videoconferencing world is the headache involved in trying to connect units that aren’t on the same LAN or service provider. Companies such as Alteva, SimpleSignal and VidTel are working on different ways to enable seamless one-click video conferencing without the intervention of IT staff, but they have an uphill battle ahead.
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Categories: Technology & Telecom
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