LAS VEGAS TV makers want to morph the big-screen HDTV into a 3-D capable, Internet-connected video phone. But details on how they will do it were scarce in a series of back-to-back press events before the official opening of the Consumer Electronics Show.
LG Electronics and Panasonic said they will make the Skype voice-over-IP service available on Wi-Fi connected digital TVs in 2010. Toshiba said it will enable video phone capabilities on its new TVs. And Cisco Systems said it will start this year separate field trials of a home telepresence system with Verizon and France Telecom.
"We will look at this as a milestone year when the TV moved from being center of entertainment to a center of entertainment and communications," said Josh Silverman, chief executive of Skype.
A third of all Skype calls are now using video, Silverman said. Skype now has 500 million registered users and was responsible for eight percent of all calling minutes in 2009, he added.
All Panasonic TVs with Internet links will support Skype in 2010. "We believe this changes how the TV is perceived in the home", said Robert Perry, a senior vice president at Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company.
For its part, LG Electronics is expanding from four to 26 the number of TV models that will support Internet links for services including Skype. However a demo of Skype on one of the models had poor audio and video quality due to a bad Internet link, the company said.
"You are going to look crystal clear on a 55-inch screen with our video phone technology," said Scott Ramierez, vice president of marketing for Toshiba America's TV group. However, he did not say what IP technology the company plans to use.
Likewise, Cisco would provide no details about its planned home video conferencing products. However it did say it plans to leverage the growing number of homes with HDTVs and broadband connections opening up a market it estimated at $3.5 billion by 2015.
In addition to its Skype plan, Panasonic demonstrated a dedicated box called the HD Visual Communications System it said it would ship in April. Cisco's approach could follow a similar path.