Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Comcast Bringing Skype To Some Of Your TVs, “Soon”

Interesting. Comcast plans to let some of its customers use Skype on their TV sets.

The two companies say Comcast subscribers equipped with special gear will be able to use the Web video messaging service on their HD sets “soon.” But they haven’t provided many details about the plan, like how much it will cost.

Here’s the relevant information from the press release, issued on the eve of the cable industry’s annual convention, which kicks off in Chicago tomorrow:

Here are a few things customers will be able to do through this offering:
· Make and receive Skype video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a television while watching their favorite TV show at the same time, and accept incoming calls during a TV show with the help of Caller ID.

· Make and receive video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a compatible mobile phone or tablet.

· Import friends to their address book from their Facebook, Outlook, Gmail and smartphone contact lists, find them on Skype and see when contacts are online and available to talk.

This service will be delivered on the Comcast customer’s HDTV through an adaptor box, a high-quality video camera, and a specially designed remote control that enables customers to text on Skype as well as control their television. The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype.

In addition, customers will be able to access mobile features conveniently through Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile app, and continue to enjoy conversations by switching from one compatible device (e.g., smartphone, tablet or television) to another.

Customer trials for this offering will begin in the coming months, and further product details will be made available later this year.

Neat function, but obviously the key factor here will be pricing. Safe bet that it will be something between free, which is what Skype’s basic service costs (and is what 94 percent of Skype’s customers pay today), and incredibly expensive, which is what Cisco’s terribly named “umi telepresence” service cost when it rolled out last year (it has since become cheaper).

But since Comcast offers all sorts of different bundles, including a “triple play” offering that sells cable, phone and broadband access for one price, it has a whole lot of options here.

If it wants to, for instance, it could easily charge a one-time fee for the equipment, and tuck a monthly fee into a bundle, where it could be “free.” Or invert that formula: give away the equipment and charge for the service.

Or perhaps Comcast will just make the whole thing free for its platinum customers as a “thanks for not cutting the cord, please don’t think about doing so” reward/incentive. Meanwhile, the press release doesn’t say a word about Microsoft. But we’ll assume that Skype’s owner-to-be is just fine with the plan, and it’s interesting to think about what a Comcast/Skype/Xbox 360 tie-up could involve.

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