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Skype video-, voice-calling option comes to Samsung TVs, too

Samsung joins LG and Panasonic in offering TVs with built-in Skype calling capability.

Samsung's UNC7000 HDTV will offer optional Skype. Samsung

The ability to make and receive voice and video calls on your living room TV via Skype will now be offered by Samsung. A press release by the two companies announced Skype availability on two 2010 Samsung TV series, the UNC7000 and UNC8000. The 7000 series is available now, and the least-expensive model is the 40-incher for a hefty $2,000.

At CES in January, Panasonic and LG also announced optional Skype capability on a number of 2010 series, and both companies will likely charge less for the privilege. Panasonic's least expensive will be the 42-inch member of the G25 series (officially $1,199; March), whereas we believe LG's will be the LD550 series (March, price undetermined, but available in sizes down to 32 inches as far as we know).

Skype on a Panasonic TV presentation from CES; the little camera/speakerphone is mounted on top. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Samsung press release contains the best details we have yet of how the service will work:

Using the TVs' remote controls, consumers can create free Skype accounts, log into their existing accounts and navigate via a simple Skype interface accessible on the televisions' screens. Skype video calls will be free, as will voice calls between Skype users. Using Skype to call traditional landline and mobile phones will cost just pennies per minute.

As with Panasonic and LG, using the service on a Samsung TV will require the purchase of an additional, proprietary camera/speakerphone designed to sit atop the TV. The camera will be called the "FREETALK TV Camera for Samsung" and will be available on Skype's online store, although it wasn't listed there at press time. LG's camera will reportedly be available in mid-May, and we have no details on the Panasonics. Pricing for the cameras is still undetermined, although we expect Samsung might divulge that information at its March 9 press event.