Well what'd you know? As soon as we get interested about Google's rumored TV tie-up with Sony and its potential plans for Skype rivalry, up pops Panasonic. It's just announced a deal with Skype to bring VoIP to your Panny TV.
The new system won't be available on any old Panasonic unit, however--it'll have to be a 2010 IPTV one enabled with the company's proprietary Viera Cast system. You'll also need Panasonic's "Skype-enabled communication camera," which comes with a pretty high recommended price of $170 (a sum that may be explained by its four noise-canceling mikes, and 720p Skype video powers). For this you'll get the usual free Skype-to-Skype voice and video comms, cheap phone calls over VoIP to landlines and cell phones, and all of the other Skype bumph like voicemail, inbound phone calls, and "voice conference calls with up to 24 other parties" (note there's no mention of Skype's recently revealed five-way video conferencing powers).
Talking about the new system in the company's press release, the VP of the Display Group Henry Hauser noted that the addition of Skype to Panasonic's IP TVs was actually driven by consumer requests, which is interesting--though the timing of this release makes it look like Hauser's group was well aware of the changes in the industry, particularly the arrival of Google TV. With such competition, Panasonic obviously doesn't want its TVs to fall behind the bleeding edge, and so it's pleased its new system turns its screens into "the hub of communication and connectivity in the consumer household enabling users to talk live via video to their family and friends right from the comfort of their couch" before Google seals up the market.
The question is, is such a system going to be the norm in the average home in the next five years, with a slightly smart Net-enabled TV in one room, and a desktop PC or laptop elsewhere in the house, or are standards like WHDI and its like, which let PCs connect over the airwaves with HDTVs going to be dominant? After all, one system is a crippled and limited computer crammed behind your TV screen, and the other is a fully functioning PC able to do handy stuff like download illegal movie torrents before displaying them on the same LCD or plasma display unit. And what about Apple's position in this market, or even Asus's, with innovations like its 1080p video-playing Eee PC Keyboard?