By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Computer peripheral and motherboard manufacturer SOYO has joined the swelling ranks of VoIP competitors angling for retail shelf space.
The SOYO IP Phone is available now for a suggested retail price of $139.99. Unlike competitive offerings that package a phone adapter and rely on a user's existing home phone, the SOYO offering is a complete corded home phone with the adapter built in. It can be plugged into a broadband modem for making VoIP calls or plugged into a land-line jack for regular calls.
According to Jim Chan, sales and marketing director for SOYO, the company wanted to strike a different path in the increasingly competitive IP telephony market. It had an IP telephony product, called the Magic Phone, on the market three years ago but pulled it because the “market wasn't mature enough.”
“A stand-alone IP phone is more appealing to the end-user than just an adapter. The average consumer sees an adapter and doesn't know what it is,” Chan said. “They probably think it's an answering machine, whereas our product is easily recognizable on the shelf next to the other phones.”
The SOYO IP Phone can be used anywhere in the world with a broadband connection, using the same phone number and calling rate. It has two 10/100M Ethernet jacks, an LCD display, speakerphone and a 100 speed-dial memory.
SOYO will offer a prepaid service for placing IP calls over its network and include a $5 credit with the phone, so users can begin making calls right out of the box. SOYO phone owners can call each other free of charge. The rate for U.S. calls is $.03 a minute.
The prepaid minutes are refillable online. SOYO will also offer IP phone cards to retailers who sell the phone, allowing them to offer refill minutes in store in $5, $10 and $20 values.
The company's reseller program offers a 10 percent quarterly residual income on service for one year. To qualify for the residual income, a retailer must sell over 20 IP phones with service; the residual will start on the 21st IP Phone with service sold.
Resellers will also get 10 percent off on the face value of the refill minutes if they offer them in-store.
Chan said his company is in talks with Best Buy, among a host of other retailers. Despite the flood of marquee brand competition into the nascent VoIP retail market, Chan said his company would target “niche markets” like small businesses, where it could thrive.
He added that SOYO is not positioning the IP phone as a land-line replacement but rather a low-cost compliment to an existing phone line.
“IP phones depend on the reliability of a cable or DSL network,” which have not yet achieved the reliability of the public switch telephone network, Chan said.
Future product plans include a potential line expansion into cordless IP phones, Chan said.
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