Skype version for broadcasters released to manufacturers

Microsoft also signed up 3 hardware partners for Skype TX

A special version of Skype designed for professional TV broadcasts reached another milestone with its release to manufacturers and the signing of three hardware partners.

Skype TX, announced in April, combines hardware and software, and was created to let Skype video calls be integrated into a professional studio broadcast production.

The goal is to promote the use of Skype in TV programs, such as newscasts, simplify its management in a production setting, and improve the quality of the image and sound that is broadcast to viewers. Skype is already used frequently on TV programs to conduct remote interviews, but often the quality of the feed is sub par.

Back in April, Microsoft said Skype TX would be available "in the coming year," so the availability of the RTM version of the product indicates a final build might be shipped soon.

"With Skype TX, program producers can connect Skype users and easily integrate them directly into their production environment. We're able to bring a new dimension to their production and help create and inspire a brand new generation of media moments," wrote Microsoft official Bryan Steele in a blog post on Friday, in which he also announced new hardware partners NewTek, Quicklink and Riedel.

For example, Skype TX lets producers add full-frame Skype video and audio via HD-SDI (high definition serial digital interface) formats, integrate the Skype elements with the broadcast workflow and handle multiple, simultaneous Skype calls via a management console, as well as monitor and adjust the quality and settings of Skype feeds.

Microsoft paid $8.5 billion in 2011 for Skype, and obviously wants to maximize that investment as much as possible. Those efforts include its integration with its enterprise unified communications server counterpart Lync, which is intended to give Skype a bigger role in business communications. Meanwhile, Skype TX is part of a broader initiative to increase and improve usage of Skype in media overall.

Rival Google has been very aggressive in pushing its video conferencing Hangouts product for both personal and workplace use, as well as for high-profile online broadcast sessions with top government officials, including U.S. President Barack Obama, and popular public figures from fields like sports and entertainment. And just this week, Google announced Hangouts users will be able to make phone calls from its Android and iOS apps, and from its Web interface, making it a closer competitor to Skype.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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