If you use the computer and instant messenger programs you’re undoubtedly familiar with Skype and what it does.

However, if you’re not, Skype is an instant messenger and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service. You can message people from all over the world, or chat with them using a headset and/or web cam. As long as both parties have and use Skype to communicate, the service is free.

So with that in mind, I wanted to tell you a little bit about Comcast’s new service. Together with Skype, Comcast has rolled out Skype on Xfinity.

Skype on Xfinity

Skype on Xfinity will enable you to make Skype to Skype audio and video calls, or instant messages, using your TV. What’s neat about this service is that it doesn’t take over your entire TV when you’re chatting or messaging someone. It uses the picture in picture function, so that no matter what you can have your TV show or sports on and not miss a minute while talking to your friends or family.

All that’s needed to get started is a special HDMI cable box and internet access from Comcast, as well as a Skype account. Customers who subscribe to the service will also be sent a kit, which includes an adapter box, video camera and special remote that can be used to create instant messages.

There are a couple of downsides to the service, though. One downside for me is the cost — $9.95 per month. I can Skype and video chat free using my computer. And although my computer monitor isn’t as big as the TV in my living room, I can still maximize the Skype window and the person on the other end is still life like.

The second downside, and one of the reasons why I won’t be able to take advantage of the service myself, is that you need to be an Xfinity Triple Play customer. I don’t have phone service through Comcast, nor do I plan to for the foreseeable future.

So all in all, adding another $20-$40 for this service isn’t worth while for me, but it might be for you, especially if you already have the Triple Play package. Despite the downsides, I think it’s a good idea, especially for people like me (and maybe you) who have family in different states.

At the moment the service is only available to people in Boston and Seattle. However, the service will be available in Atlanta, Augusta, Chicago, Detroit, Harrisburg, Indianapolis, Miami and Pittsburgh by the end of the week.

[Comcast Voices & Press Release]