This article was published on September 8, 2008

Skype founders to establish free video calls on television

Skype founders to establish free video calls on television
Toivo Tänavsuu
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Toivo Tänavsuu

Journalist and blogger Toivo Tänavsuu is from Estonia and just released his new business, IT and innovations weblog about "enterprises, roar Journalist and blogger Toivo Tänavsuu is from Estonia and just released his new business, IT and innovations weblog about "enterprises, roaring like tigers", He shares some of his best stories on The Next Web.

The Estonians who brought world wide fame to the Internet telephone Skype are working on a new and interesting software solution enabling free video calls via television.

The project, currently named InkSpin1, hatching in the Ambient Sound Investments (ASI) investment group’s incubator, incorporates the development of the user interface utilized in the Skype Internet phone for LCD televisions. This development would enable video calls to be conducted not on small cell phone screens or even computer screens but on gigantic TV screens.

Just turn on the tube

InkSpin1 leader Martin Villig says the objective of the described solution is to make video calls as simple and convenient as possible and thus introduce an even larger user base.

Today, free Skype video calls are available to computer users, all you need in addition is a web cam. “Today, we have a solution for computer users. Yet, for an average home user, video calling is too difficult and thus they are not taking advantage of the opportunity. Our goal here is to make such calls equally easy for kids as well as parents. So that if people know how to turn on the TV and change channels, they would know how to make video calls,” Villig explains.

According to Villig, the company already has the first TV-video phone (or VTV solution) prototypes up and running and they are doing so efficiently. At the moment, additional services are being developed and they are making contact with television manufacturers, with a view to integrating the software device into television sets. Those unwilling to change their TV sets can, in the future, purchase a digibox-like supplementary device.

Backed by Chinese developers

Product development for the Skype founders’ new technological gadget is carried out in Estonia, its software development, however, takes place in Beijing, China. Villig lists two reasons behind this. First, through China, it is easier to cooperate with Asian television producers, contacts with some of whom have already been established. Second, it is more difficult in Estonia than in China to find suitable software developers in required numbers. The Chinese unit of InkSpin1 is managed by Jussi Nyfelt, a Finn who has been promoting Nokia in China for years.

But first, some research

So as to find out what the relevant user expectations are and whether or not users would be willing to pay a bit more for video-cal enabled TV sets, InkSpin1 will conduct preliminary studies in a number of countries; monetary support for this will be applied for with Enterprise Estonia. The TV-video phone could be on the market in a year or two, notes Villig. In addition to everything else, the solution is still awaiting a catchy name.

ASI, which has invested in tens of technology companies is owned by Skype founders Toivo Annus, Jaan Tallinn, Ahti Heinla and Priit Kasesalu. When eBay purchased Skype in 2005 for 2,6 billion USD, the Estonians received a significant amount in their bank accounts.

This is a guest post by Toivo Tänavsuu, editor and founder of

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