By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The eBay-owned PC VoIP firm Skype will find its name on a wide array of products in 2007, including several that connect directly to broadband modems for Skype calling with the PC turned off and a number of Wi-Fi handsets.
In the past year, Skype has brought roughly 150 products to retail, according to Eric Largier, Skype business development director. The company spent 2006 focused on creating new product categories, such as Wi-Fi phones and dual-mode cordless products.
In 2007, Largier said the focus would center less on creating new categories than on filling out the existing ones with a larger assortment of models.
The Skype store will also play a larger role moving hardware, he said. "We'll be looking to leverage our online store to offer more attractive promotions."
Despite the recent moves to sideline the PC and the introduction of an annual calling plan, Skype will continue to position itself as an adjunct to — not a replacement for — traditional telephone service, he said.
Linksys will offer its first Skype Wi-Fi phone, the WIP320, for an estimated $199. The model lets users place Skype calls on the road at open hot spots and at home over wireless networks. The company will also offer a dual-mode PSTN/Skype phone that connects directly to a broadband modem or router. The CIT 400 is expected to ship in the summer for $179.
Actiontec will also introduce a Wi-Fi phone for Skype. The VoSKY Wi-Fi phone works at open hotspots and home networks and supports Skype's calling features, including SkypeIn/Out and voicemail. It features a 1.8-inch color LCD that displays Skype contacts, caller ID, credits and other information. It sports a three-hour talktime and 50 hours of standby and 64/128 bit WEP encryption
In the second quarter, Thomson will ship the GE 28310, a DECT-based model that plugs into a broadband modem. The $179 phone can also place PSTN calls and supports Skype conferences with up to four callers and PSTN/Skype conferencing. The handset packs a speakerphone, color display with buddy lists and call logs, and a 200-entry phone book. The phone can keep pace with Skype service updates through Internet firmware upgrades.
Networking vendor Netgear will also offer a dual-mode Skype/PSTN phone — the SPH200D — that connects directly to a modem. The DECT-based phone can be expanded to a total of four handsets and offers 12 hours of talktime and 120 hours of standby time.
Bridging Skype and landlines won't fall just to dual-mode cordless phones. Auvi will launch the second generation in its WIP line of Skype adapters that allow consumers to use their existing home phones for making Skype calls. Consumers can plug a traditional home phone into the WIP22 and program speed-dial keys for Skype contacts.
Once connected to a WIP the phone can send and receive Skype calls when the computer is on and the Skype application is running. The WIP22 supports conferencing a Skype call with a PSTN call.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.