Subscribers then will be able to rent a kit from Comcast that includes a webcam and an adapter that plugs into the TV. A new cable box remote will include a keyboard on the back, for typing chat messages.
Subscribers be notified of incoming calls on their TVs and will be able to answer calls with full-screen video or in a window while watching TV.
Comcast plans to start trials of the system in the next few months. It has 17.4 million Internet subscribers.
Cisco Systems Inc. launched a home videoconferencing device and service last year but quickly had to cut the $599 price and $24.95 monthly fee, apparently because of weak demand. It later scaled back its marketing plans too, as part of a companywide shift away from consumer devices.
Comcast’s Skype adapter won’t work with Skype services that let users call phone numbers or receive calls to a phone number. Instead, Comcast plans to bundle a limited version of Skype’s offerings with its own phone service, for which it charges $20 per month and up, to the adapter, so subscribers can place and receive phone calls through the TV set. That’s a feature it plans to add later, according to Comcast spokesman Peter Dobrow.
Skype, which is based in Luxembourg, has agreed to be bought by Microsoft Corp., the world’s biggest software maker, for $8.5 billion in a deal expected to close by the end of the year.
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