The cable industry’s annual trade show kicks off tomorrow in Chicago, which means over the next few days we’ll hear a lot of tech-related announcements like this one from Comcast and Skype. The companies say that Comcast customers will  ”soon” be able to make Skype calls via their TV sets even while they continue to watch a show. Here’s the release:

PHILADELPHIA and LUXEMBOURG – June 14, 2011 – Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Skype today announced that the companies have entered into a strategic partnership that will enable Comcast customers to communicate with family and friends through HD video calling on their television. They will soon be able to make and receive Skype video calls from their television, whether their friends and family use Skype on their home TVs, PCs, compatible smartphones or tablets.

Through this arrangement, Comcast customers will be able to experience widescreen HD video calling that is immersive and natural. With Skype, they can share in the excitement of a big game, a birthday party or holiday, a bedtime story, or a casual conversation with loved ones, and have the ability to communicate with hundreds of millions of Skype users across the globe. As real-time video communication becomes a more integral part of the way people connect, Skype and Comcast will bring a simple, affordable, high-quality video calling experience to millions of homes.

“Our unique relationship with Skype not only will change how our customers interact with their TV, but also will create new and meaningful ways to bring our customers closer to the people they care about,” said Neil Smit, President, Comcast Cable. “TV has evolved into a social experience, and Comcast and Skype will be delivering a product that personalizes the TV experience even more, and brings friends and family together through the biggest screen in their homes.”
Tony Bates, CEO, Skype, said, “We are pleased to announce this partnership with Comcast. By combining Comcast’s broad living room reach with Skype’s innovative communications platform and worldwide community of users, we can bring video calling into the heart of the home allowing people to share life’s experiences both big and small.”

Here are a few things customers will be able to do through this offering:
· Make and receive Skype video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a television while watching their favorite TV show at the same time, and accept incoming calls during a TV show with the help of Caller ID.

· Make and receive video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a compatible mobile phone or tablet.

· Import friends to their address book from their Facebook, Outlook, Gmail and smartphone contact lists, find them on Skype and see when contacts are online and available to talk.

This service will be delivered on the Comcast customer’s HDTV through an adaptor box, a high-quality video camera, and a specially designed remote control that enables customers to text on Skype as well as control their television. The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype.

In addition, customers will be able to access mobile features conveniently through Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile app, and continue to enjoy conversations by switching from one compatible device (e.g., smartphone, tablet or television) to another.

Customer trials for this offering will begin in the coming months, and further product details will be made available later this year.