In a development that brings Internet-based video conferencing to the living room, Skype Technologies announced a partnership this week with LG Electronics and Panasonic Corporation through which both electronics firms will embed Skype’s popular web calling software in high-definition television (HDTV) sets to be sold later this year. Owned formerly by eBay (which recently sold its 70% stake in Skype to a consortium of investor groups), Skype offers its downloadable software free of charge to users worldwide who use the technology to place and receive free voice and video calls and text messages via the Internet. (The company, however, charges a fee for placing web-based calls to landline phones.) Under the pact unveiled on Tuesday, Panasonic will add Skype’s web calling software to its line of VIERA CAST-enabled HDTVs, while LG will add the software to its new line of 26 LCD and plasma HDTVs that will also come equipped with NetCast Entertainment Access technology. Both manufacturers are slated to roll out the first HDTVs containing the Skype software by mid-2010. The Skype-equipped HDTVs will permit users to conduct video conferences with multiple parties. Panasonic and HD will also market high-definition webcams and other plug-in accessories that users will need to place Skype video calls via their television sets. Noting that more than one-third of Skype calls now include video, Skype CEO Josh Silverman asserted that many Skype users “have expressed a desire to communicate with their friends and family from somewhere comfortable, and preferably on a big screen.”