Skype to offer video service on LG, Panasonic TVs

A model demonstrates a new IPEVO Free.2 Skype internet phone during a news conference in Taipei January 17, 2007. REUTERS/Richard Chung

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Privately held Skype has forged deals with consumer electronics makers LG Electronics and Panasonic in a bid to move its Internet video service beyond the desktop computer to the living room TV.

The service, which includes free video calls between Skype members, will compete with consumer video conference services being developed by bigger companies such as networking giant Cisco Systems Inc and Polycom Inc, which plans to develop consumer video services with International Business Machines Corp.

Skype, a former eBay unit, said both LG and Panasonic will have high-definition TVs supporting its service around mid-year.

Both television makers will embed the Skype technology in television models with Internet connections and will sell separate Web cameras that have built in microphones for television viewers who want to use Skype.

Skype said Panasonic will support Skype in its VT and G series televisions in the United States, with screen sizes up to 65 inches. LG will embed Skype in 26 new LCD and plasma screen TVs, which will also come in a range of sizes.

Both LG and Panasonic are expected to demonstrate the service this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual gadget showcase in Las Vegas.

Skype also plans to announce support for high-definition video services on computers at the technology show, including partnerships with makers of high-definition Web camera suppliers faceVsion and In Store Solutions. High-definition Skype services will work on computers with a 1.8 Gigahertz processor and a high-speed broadband connection of about 1 megabits per second upward, Skype said.

Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Richard Chang