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Sneak peek at Comcast’s Skype on Xfinity service

Comcast (s CMCSA) announced earlier this year that it would soon introduce Skype to its subscribers,  with an easy-to-use kit that will allow users to quickly turn up video chat services on their TVs. The partnership with Skype, (s MSFT) which is exclusive to Comcast, will provide a whole new, high-value added service for the cable company to sell to subscribers. I got a sneak peek at what the service will look like, with a demo from VP of Product Development and Management Mike Connelly at Comcast headquarters last week:

The first thing worth noting is that the Skype self-install kit (pictured below) seems pretty easy to set up. It comes with a camera, which can be set on top of the TV, as well as a WiFi-enabled adaptor box that connects the video stream to the home gateway or wireless router. It also includes an RF remote for controlling the service, which includes a QWERTY keyboard on the back.

A few key takeaways from the demo:

  • Comcast has an exclusive deal with Skype, and will be the only cable provider to offer this service for at least the next few years.
  • Skype video chats will be transmitted in 720p, 30 frames per second video.
  • There are four microphones in the webcam to pick up conversation from across the room.
  • The RF-based remote lets you text from its QWERTY keyboard without worrying about line-of-sight of the adaptor box.
  • The adaptor box has an HDMI input as well as output to layer video chat on top of linear or on-demand TV being watched on the TV.
  • Users can sync all their contacts from their Facebook, LinkedIn, (s lnkd) email and Skype accounts through their Comcast account to find friends to video chat with.
  • Pricing has yet to be announced, but the Skype kits should be available beginning early next year.

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