A growing number of consumer electronics companies are integrating Skype client software into their products. Skype is winning some adoption on pocketable devices, and could potentially see a lot more growth in the mobile market soon due to the company's recent acquisition of Qik. Another area where Skype is starting to gain some ground is in the living room, on Internet-enabled televisions and set-top boxes.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, we saw Skype demoed on a number of different home theater products. Panasonic and LG introduced support for high-definition Skype video calling in some of their televisions last year. This year, Sony and Vizio are jumping on the bandwagon. In an effort to enable Skype calling on televisions that don't have the feature built in, Sony and Panasonic are also including it as a standard feature on on some of their Blu Ray players.
I got to see Skype calling in action on Sony's new Blu-ray player at CES. The company is laboring to make video calling feel like a seamless part of the product's user experience. In order to take advantage of the feature, users will need a camera accessory that plugs into the Blu-ray player.
Due to the general awfulness of conference Internet connectivity, it was a bit difficult to get a sense of how it performs under real-world conditions. Unlike some of the existing television implementations of Skype, the Sony Blu-ray player doesn't appear to support HD quality for video calls. The video was a bit grainy when stretched to full-screen, but was suitable for communication.
The user interface was simple and sensible. You can remain logged in while you are watching television and it will pop up a notification when you receive a video call. You can also open up your buddy list in a sidebar.
The Skype implementation in Sony's new Blu-ray player was quite nice, but it's a bit disappointing that Sony hasn't also brought Skype to the Playstation 3 yet. I asked a Sony representative about that possibility during the demo and was told that they have no plans of that nature to announce at this time. Given the fact that a growing number of Playstation users already have a camera accessory for the device, it would seem to be a good fit.