Skype video calls go high-definition

Skype-enabled HD televisions are also coming this year, the company said

LG and Panasonic will show HDTVs at CES this week that will ship later this year and come bundled with Skype's Internet calling software

LG and Panasonic will show HDTVs at CES this week that will ship later this year and come bundled with Skype's Internet calling software

Skype users can now make high-definition video calls as long as they have an HD webcam and sufficient bandwidth and processing power, Skype said on Tuesday. The company also announced that HDTVs will ship later this year with its Internet calling software embedded on them.

The HD capability is included in the beta version of Skype 4.2, the company said. The software was actually released for PC users in early December but Skype didn't disclose the HD features at the time, perhaps because it wanted to make a splash at the Consumer Electronics Show, which gets under way this week in Las Vegas.

The software can deliver 720p HD video at 30 frames per second, Skype said. It planned to update its download page on Tuesday to include information about the HD capabilities. There was no word yet about HD Skype for the Mac.

A few companies will introduce HD webcams designed for Skype's software at CES. They'll be able to handle the video encoding and processing on-board, so customers who have one won't need such a fast PC processor, according to Skype.

FaceVision's FV Touchcam N1 is due in February, priced at $99 with a microphone or $69 without, Skype said. In Store Solutions will also sell webcams that do the on-board processing. Its Freetalk HD Pro and HD Pro Plus are due in March for $120 and $140, respectively.

Skype is also joining the rush to put Internet applications on TVs. That's likely to be a theme again at CES, though it's unclear if consumers will buy into the idea in a big way. LG Electronics and Panasonic will both introduce HDTVs at the show that will ship with Skype's software embedded, allowing customers to make HD calls on a big screen.

The TVs from both companies are expected in mid-2010, according to Skype. They'll be offered with optional HD webcams that plug into the TV and can "pick up sound and video from couch distance," Skype said. Pricing and other details weren't yet available.

Skype says around one-third of its calls made between PCs now include video.

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