It’s Been a Week for New Skype Video Experiences

skype_logo11111_thumb[1] Over the past week I have been experimenting with two relatively new features that build out the Skype video experience:


7140-62-1.128x128 At a price point that makes it attractive even for Skype High Quality Video calls (VGA resolution @ 30 fps), the FREETALK® TALK-7140 HD Webcam:

  • Enhances the video image quality to HD’s 720p resolution at frame rates up to 22 fps, provided the Sender has sufficient Internet upload bandwidth (>1.2 Mbps).
  • Requires 30 seconds to four minutes at the beginning of a call to come up to HD resolution; after some initial “network negotiation” by the connecting software the aspect ratio changes from 4: 3 to HD’s 16:9.
  • Works with Skype’s High Quality Video calling where end point conditions do not provide sufficient bandwidth for HD calling.
  • Falls back to lower resolutions when network conditions degrade as a result of Skype’s network bandwidth adaptation feature that adjusts video resolution to network conditions. But the image will self-restore to the maximum resolution if the network conditions recover and return to improved quality.
  • Is Skype certified for HD Video and High Quality Video calling.
  • Is recognized as a webcam by MacBooks and iMacs; however, currently will only operate on MacBooks at up to VGA resolution at up to 30 fps until Skype releases a new version of Skype for Mac that supports HD video calling.

JasonHarris-JimCo.Video.300x168The image to the right comes from a half hour, two-way HD call with TechCraver’s Jason Harris who had an upload speed in excess of 4Mbps while I was supported by a network upload speed of 1.8Mbps using Rogers recently introduced DOCSIS 3.0 Ultimate service (50 Mbps download, 2 Mbps upload). Expanding the image to a full screen display (22” in my case) gives a close-to-Telepresence experience.

Note that if only one Sender on a one-to-one video call has the upload speed to support sending HD video, the recipient, if also using Skype for Windows 4.2 or later, will be able to receive and view the full 720p HD image provided his/her download speed is above 1.2 Mbps – well below the download bandwidth maximum for most broadband Internet services.

So this brings up the issue of upload bandwidth speeds available to consumers. Om Malik had something to say on this subject in a recent post, Faster Upstream Speeds for Cable Broadband:

U.S. cable companies expect that by 2015, nearly 100 million of the nation’s homes will be able to send data upstream at speeds of around 20 Mbps. This will eventually be followed by further upgrades to 50 Mbps, by way of enhancements to DOCSIS 3.0 tech. That compares to current upstream speeds of 6-28 Mbps (shared).

So we don’t need to wait for Fibre-to-the-Home if you’re on cable. As mentioned above, Rogers now offers a 50Mbps download/2 Mbps upload DOCSIS 3.0 service for which they recently reduced the price by 1/3 to under $100 per month with a 175 GB/month cap. Bell Canada is introducing a 25/7 fibre-to-the-home service for $54 per month but with only a 75 GB cap; their current issue is coverage. Whereas it’s available in central Toronto, there is only limited availability around the suburban Toronto area. In the U.S., where available, Comcast is offering DOCSIS 3.0 services with up to 10 Mbps upload speeds but have services at 2 and 3 Mbps upload as well; also Verizon offers its FIOS Fibre-to-the-Home service. This scenario recalls the era ten years ago when broadband Internet services were rolling out sporadically over a three to four year period.

I’m still experimenting with the HD webcam and will have a more complete report once I have experience with a wider range of user endpoint conditions. The TALK-7140 HD webcam is available at the Skype Store.

Skype Multi-Party Video Chat (beta!)

In a separate post I’ll deal with Skype Multi-Party Video Calling; in the meantime check out Phil Wolff’s posts on this subject at Skype Journal and Andy Abramson begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting’s Skype Multi Party Video Makes Others A Thing of The Past at VoIP Watch. As shown in one of Phil’s posts, I participated in a five party call for about fifteen minutes simply to ensure I had a configuration where it would work.

Caveat: Skype for Windows 5.0 is still beta software and needs user feedback and some work prior to any final release; it’s not suitable for ongoing production use at this time.

Bottom line: we’re seeing how far video calling can be pushed with respect to video resolution and multi-party video chat sessions; it’s still early days. For full realization of the potential of video calling we need implementation of faster Internet services for both consumers and SMB’s with reasonable pricing. Also we need more experience and development of the underlying video calling software and hardware, especially when it comes to the User Interface. In the meantime VGA resolution video calling (High Quality Video) remains a quite acceptable user experience – especially when it’s free.

Full disclosure: In Store Solutions, producer of the FREETALK line of Skype hardware, has become a client of Denali InterConneXions, publisher of Voice On The Web, building on the author’s previous business development experience with establishing partnerships that can assist with the promotion of a primary vendor’s offerings. A more complete statement will follow shortly.

Some posts from the High Quality Video launch in late 2007:

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About Jim Courtney

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

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