Skype and LifeSize may have HD video compatibility soon

Skype is introducing high-definition video calling that it plans to make interoperable with corporate videoconferencing gear, so individuals could join conferences at high resolution for little cost. The news was unveiled last week during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Key to the potential cost savings is that the video cameras used would have onboard processors to handle the coding and decoding, a load that could overwhelm processors on older PCs. With these cameras, businesses could use the HD service without upgrading desktops or laptops. The cameras cost less than $200.

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While at the moment the connections are possible only between Skype users, the company plans to interoperate with big-name videoconferencing and telepresence vendors, a spokesman says. "As you've probably seen, the interoperability announcement with LifeSize (which starts with audio) and the Skype for SIP interop announcements, interoperability with traditional systems is certainly part of the plan long-term," the spokesman said via e-mail. Skype for SIP is a gateway service that links corporate SIP-based PBXs to Skype's networks, so workers can receive Skype calls free through the corporate PBX.

LifeSize, now owned by Logitech, makes a range of video gear from desktop clients to full-room telepresence installations. Currently Skype voice callers can join into LifeSize conferences with audio only.

The HD Skype video is 720p, but its latest beta version will support 1080p, according to a Skype blog.

Partners of the company are making inexpensive HD video cameras, some costing as little as $130, that interoperate with Skype conferencing services. The partners are faceVsion and In Store Solutions.

The cameras are based on the H.264 codec standard, which is supported by many videoconferencing vendors. Support of a standard doesn't insure interoperability but it does make interoperability easier to achieve if vendors all design to it.

Interoperability with proprietary codecs takes more effort and cooperation.

A spokesman for In Store Solutions says that with one of the cameras, a computer with a 1.8GHz processor can support a Skype HD video call.

The cameras are scheduled to be available through Skype’s online store in March.

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