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Comcast Skypes Onto TV In 10 Markets

Comcast this week is launching Skype on Xfinity, a new HD video calling service priced at $9.95 per month, in 10 markets including Boston, Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta.

By the end of the week, the MSO said, the service will also be available in Augusta, Ga., Detroit, Harrisburg, Pa., Indianapolis, Miami and Pittsburgh. Additional markets will launch through the summer.

Skype on Xfinity, which Comcast announced at last year's Cable Show, is available to qualifying Xfinity Triple Play customers who have an HDMI-capable set-top box. The service lets customers make and receive video calls from their TV in 720p HD quality, as well as send and receive instant messages via Skype while watching TV at the same time.

Comcast is delivering the service using a Technicolor-manufactured adapter box -- which provides an Internet connection the TV, as well as the Skype client software -- as well as an HD-quality video camera from Quanta. A specially designed remote control with a QWERTY keyboard on the back lets customers chat via Skype as well as power the TV on or off and adjust volume. The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype.

"We're continuing to build innovative communication services like Skype on Xfinity that will allow our customers to interact in new ways with the people they care about the most," Comcast chief technology officer Tony Werner said in a statement. "Through our close collaboration with Skype, we focused on delivering a new product that brings family and friends together through a high-quality video calling experience like never before."

For Comcast, Skype on Xfinity promises to provide incremental revenue on the telephony front -- as well as give subscribers a new reason to keep phone service -- as the growth of its Digital Voice business slows down.

"TV is rapidly evolving as a social experience, and Skype on Xfinity is bringing friends and family together to share life's moments through the use of the largest screen in their homes," Cathy Avgiris, Comcast's executive vice president and general manager for communications and data services, said in a statement.

Last year, Microsoft paid $8.5 billion in cash to acquire Luxembourg-based Skype from an investor group led by Silver Lake. Previously Skype was owned by eBay, which bought the company for $2.6 billion in 2005.

More info on the service is available at www.comcast.com/skype.