Logitech has just released a high-end web cam for… HDTVs. At the moment, the Logitech TV Cam for Skype only works with HDTVs from the Panasonic VIERA line that have the “connect-enabled ” feature. However, you can be sure that, in-time, other brand will join the party. In any case, with a 1Mbps (upload) connection, users can start making video calls in HD* from their television.
The usage model is important here: using Skype from a television requires a bit of setup (account information, add friend), but once that’s done, it’s actually much simpler than using it on PC, especially for people who usually don’t care much for technology. At the same time, it is possible to call high-tech friends and family members who are using a computer — and all computer-to-computer calls are free. Computer can obviously call the TV as well (it’s just a regular Skype user). And that also works with smartphones and any other Skype devices.
At CES 2011, Skype on TV was a huge hit, particularly among seniors. I’ve never seen so many seemingly retired people at CES, and they were almost all excited by this.
Installing the webcam is easy: just plug it to the TV. There is no software installation and it’s a zero (hardware) setup. The webcam looks like a normal PC webcam, but it is very different because the video compression is done inside the webcam, instead of being done on the computer. This is a big deal, and we hope that Logitech will eventually do that for PC webcams too. Important: this webcam does NOT work with a PC or Mac.
As we said, Panasonic VIERA Connect-enabled TV are the only market for this webcam, but we’re practically certain that Logitech is already talking to other brands. I’m a voracious Skype user, and this is starting to be a serious factor in the choice of my next TV.
*HD : when we tried it, the video quality was quite good. It was in 720p HD all, but with a bitrate of only 1Mbps, don’t expect the image quality to rival a 5Mbps or more movie, it’s just not possible. That said, details were fine enough so that we could read a magazine that the other party was holding in front of the camera. The autofocus has also been much improved since the last generation of PC webcams.
This webcam should be available just now, or very shortly, and it costs $150 in the U.S.