Today, Skype released an update to its Samsung Smart TV app to offer 2014 models free group video chat capabilities for the first time ever.
The blog post announcing the Skype 4.0 update explicitly states the new feature will be available for 2014 Samsung Smart TV’s with built-in cameras, with no mention of older model support. The update supports video calling in 1080p resolution as long as every member of the party has a 2014 Samsung TV, compatible HD displays, webcams, and a steady internet connection with 1Mbps bandwidth.
Until April of 2014, group video chats were only available to Skype Premium customers paying the $9 monthly subscription fee. In April, Skype announced free video calling support for Mac and Windows desktops, as well as the Microsoft Xbox One, leading up to today’s update. There is currently no group video chat capability for the mobile app, however Skype promises it will be available soon.
Samsung Smart TV Skypers will be limited to three people per video chat, as opposed to the 10-person limit for desktops and game consoles.
Skype’s deeper integration into the smart TV market comes at a time when many companies are developing their own competing video chatting platforms. Days before the release of Skype 4.0, Mozilla released Firefox 35 and included a more practical version of its Hello web-based video calling platform. Firefox Hello should not currently be a big concern for Skype, however, as the platform only offers video calling through its browser via desktops.
Skype’s Samsung-exclusive update is understandable given Samsung’s dominance in the Smart TV market, but some formidable competition could mean Samsung could lose this exclusivity. In 2013, Vizio held a 24.6 percent market share of Smart TV shipments in the United States, only 5.2 percent lower than Samsung’s leading 29.6 percent market share, according to Strategy Analytics. While Samsung’s share essentially held solid over last year’s 29.5 percent share, Vizio’s share jumped up almost 2 points from 22.8 percent. Vizio currently does not have built-in webcams offering Skype video calling, but did release the VIZIO Internet Apps TV Video Camera in March 2012 with Skype support, which works even while watching TV.