By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The success of PC-calling services from Skype and the voice-enabled instant messaging services from Yahoo! and MSN, has prompted a host of products aimed at liberating PC-based VoIP telephony from the computer.
Several vendors will use International CES to introduce VoIP cordless base stations that connect to a PC and send calling information — buddy lists and contacts — to a handset for placing calls and instant text messages from anywhere in the home. Some units are designed to work with free services such as Skype and also the PSTN network for emergency dialing.
8x8 will introduce a Packet8 SoftTalk voice and video soft-phone PC-calling solutions to compete against other PC-based services from Skype and others. The service will be available in January as a free download for basic PC-to-PC voice and video calls. Softalk Premium will be $5.99 per month for 500 U.S. and Canada minutes and all Packet8 calling features.
Actiontec will introduce the VoSKY Call Center for placing Skype calls from regular mobile phones and home phones. The unit connects to a PC via USB and to a regular home phone. Once connected to a landline telephone number, Skype subscribers can use their cellphones or cordless phones to talk to their Skype contacts.
By calling the number of the phone connected to the Call Center and following a series of voice prompts, users can place Skype and SkypeOut calls from any phone. The call center can forward Skype and SkypeIn calls to consumers' mobile or traditional phones while a call return feature notifies users when a Skype contact has signed on. When alerted, users can dial that contact by pressing “1” on their phones.
The Call Center, which ships in January for a suggested $69.99, supports call waiting and features echo-cancellation technology for signal clarity.
Auvi will roll out nine new VoIP and Skype-enabled products including the WIP20K, a telephone adapter for use with GlobalTouch Telecom's (GTT) VoIP calling plan. The WIP20K will retail for a suggested $29.99. GTT's service plans start at $4.95 a month (exclusive for Auvi customers) for 50 outgoing minutes, unlimited incoming minutes and unlimited in-network calls.
The company will also offer a telephone adapter specifically for Skype. The WIP20S ($29.99 suggested) connects to a broadband or dial-up modem and a home phone and lets users use traditional cordless phones for placing Skype calls. Unlike other Skype-dedicated handsets, the WIP20S can't send Skype contacts directly to a cordless handset. Instead, up to 99 Skype contacts can be assigned speed-dial numbers for quick accessibility.
Finally, the PHIP100 combines VoIP capability with built-in Web cam and 2.1-channel speakers with active subwoofer for playing MP3 files stored on a computer. It will be available in two SKUs, one for use with Skype and one programmed to call on GTT's VoIP network. Pricing was unavailable.
D-Link will offer a telephone adapter for use with Vonage's VoIP service. The co-branded adapter will be available in Vonage's retail starter kit. The D-Link VTA supports two broadband telephone lines. Vonage will continue to offer adapters from Motorola and Linksys. Pricing was to be determined.
GN Netcom is introducing a PSTN/PC headset that can also play music from the PC. The GN 4800 connects to a USB port as well as phone jack. If the landline phone rings while playing music, the phone automatically switches to telephone mode for answering the call.
The GN 4800 can also be used with Skype and other PC-based VoIP services. It will also automatically switch from music to telephone mode when you take your landline phone off the hook. If the computer is shut down or the USB cable is unplugged, the GN 4800 will automatically switch to telephone mode.
SOYO will introduce the G1681 VoIP telephone adapter for use with SIP-based VoIP services. The $59.99-suggested adapter features PSTN passthrough, allowing users to make either VoIP or PSTN calls. The adapter can be configured with VoIP service using a Web browser.
The company will also update its corded IP phone, the $69.99 G668. The phone plugs directly into a broadband modem and works with SIP-based VoIP services.
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.