To Be Restored: Camera Flexibility for Video Hackers.

I spent some time this afternoon interviewing Jonathon Christensen, Skype’s General Manager for Audio and Video. After reviewing with me how Skype came to be able to offer High Quality Video (which will be the subject of another post), Skype released this statement of interest to those Skype enthusiasts who had been using a video configuration option (i.e. – “hacking” the config.xml file) to allow Skype video to use a 640 x 480 mode of non-Logitech webcams.

Last year, we created a configuration option to enable better video performance on Skype for Windows for tech-savvy users with webcams that could handle it. In Skype 3.6 for Windows, the option was removed. While it’s true that the configuration option (which was essentially a garage hack) did offer better-than-average video, the quality was very unreliable. It worked for some users while frustrating others.

Any benefits of the removed option pale in comparison with High Quality Video, which was our focus in Skype 3.6 for Windows. High Quality Video has moved the video-quality bar significantly higher. That’s because, together with Logitech, we worked on all aspects of the video system — from optics to drivers to the video codec — to achieve reliable High Quality Video performance.

Very few people used the previous video configuration option, so we were surprised at the reaction of some of these users when the option was removed. We’ll therefore happily re-introduce the option very soon. However, we’d like to remind users that the restored configuration option will not provide the High Quality Video experience. In order to get that, users will need a combination of certified Logitech hardware and optimized Skype software.

Fundamentally Skype had set out some time ago high standards they wanted to achieve in terms of sustainable, reliable, robust video calling performance and evaluated many brands of webcams before partnering with Logitech. They then worked together on both hardware and software to achieve what has been released in Skype 3.6 as identified by a High Quality Video logo which appears when meeting all the appropriate conditions, including frame rate.

Skype listened to those who raised the issue. Of importance is to understand that users who deploy the video configuration option do so at their own risk; Skype can only guarantee High Quality Video to those whose PC, webcam, software and network conditions meet the High Quality Video specifications. No date has been given for the hot fix that will include not only the restoration of this capability but some other video operation improvements, but let’s hope it’s within the next couple of weeks..

Now as for Dan’s question about getting High Quality Video on the Mac. Recall the difficulty of getting any tools to allow third party development on the iPhone? Suffice it to say it’s not for lack of trying on the part of Logitech and Skype to work with Apple. When I tell the rest of the story about the level to which Logitech and Skype had to co-operate to achieve what we’re seeing in Skype 3.6, you’ll understand.

About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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