Facebook and Skype introduced an elegant integration earlier today which allows Facebook members to easily video chat with each other. The demo looks slick; you simply go to a friend's profile page or find them in the chat window, click on the video camera icon and are connected. One big benefit of the integration vs. the way Skype ordinarily works is that you can instantly communicate with your friend on Facebook that you want to have a video call and if the friend doesn't have the Skype plug-in they can download it in 20-30 seconds and get started.
By taking a lot of the friction out of video chatting, and by exposing this feature to Facebook's 750 million users, this new feature could become the next big inflection point for online and mobile video usage. Over the last 5 years online and mobile video usage has exploded, and arguably YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and Apple have been the main drivers. YouTube's user-generated and sharing roots exposed tens of millions of people to watching video online in the first place. Then Hulu and Netflix capitalized on this awareness by making household-name premium quality video available. Apple has played its part introducing mobile devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad) that enable more convenient, flexible viewing.
On the eve of the Cable Show, Comcast and Skype are announcing a partnership that will enable TV-based HD video calling. Comcast subscribers using the new service will be able to make Skype video and audio calls while at the same time watching TV. On-screen caller ID will pop-up when a Skype call is received. A Comcast spokesman told me last week that customer trials are set to begin soon (word actually began leaking out last week).
For Skype, the partnership is another route into the living room as it seeks to become a ubiquitous communications platform. Early last year Skype announced it was working with Samsung and Panasonic to embed the Skype app in certain connected TV models, and it also offers a variety of HD web cams for sale on its site. For Comcast, Skype is an enhancement to its Xfinity TV service and mobile app that creates some interesting new integrated communications and social media experiences.
Yesterday Skype took the beta label off its 5.0 version for Mac users, which it originally began testing last Nov. 5.0 sports the ultra-cool group video calling feature that Skype unveiled at CES a few weeks ago. Group video calling allows up to 10 Skype users (though Skype itself recommends no more than 5) to watch each other while talking. Skype had earlier released a neat video (below) of various ways group calling can be used. The only bad news is that group video calling requires subscribing to the "Premium" package for $9/mo, or buying a day pass for $5.
VideoNuze is the authoritative online source for original analysis and news aggregation focused on the burgeoning online video industry. Founded in 2007 by Will Richmond, a 20-year veteran of the broadband, cable TV, content and technology industries, VideoNuze is read by executive-level decision-makers who need to get beyond the standard headlines and achieve a deep understanding of online video’s disruptive impact.