New York — Courting road warriors and nomadic college students, Vonage announced the V-Phone, a USB flash drive preloaded with Vonage’s service and built-in headset jack at a press conference, held here on Wednesday.
The $40 V Phone works with existing Vonage calling plans and was positioned by Vonage founder Jeffrey Citron as an inexpensive means for businesses both large and small to add extra lines. Today, 11 percent of Vonage subscribers are business users, Citron said.
The V-Phone, which will be available in 256MB capacities, is loaded with Vonage calling software that launches automatically when the drive is inserted into an Internet-connected PC or laptop. Once connected, users can make VoIP calls from the computer.
The drive comes with a 2.5mm headphone jack and ear-bud headset. The drive also contains an audio processor for improving call quality.
In addition to VoIP calling, the drives can store data files like a typical USB flash drive.
“This is an evolution in how we deliver our service,” Citron said, adding that the V-Phone product line will be developed to include additional models.
Michael Tribolet, Vonage president, said the company was not in competition with Skype, Yahoo! and the growing horde of PC-based calling services offering free or cut-rate calling. “We’re a replacement service, with full E-911 and virtual numbers,” he said.
The company sees its fortunes intertwined with the millions of broadband Internet subscribers across the nation. “Unlike the telecos or MSOs, we are not bound to a specific geographical area, so we can be a national service,” he said.
Tribolet noted that the company would continue to leverage retail, and add more channel partners, as it rolls out new devices. Vonage is currently in 11,000 stores including Best Buy, Circuit City, RadioShack, Office Depot, CompUSA and Sam’s Club. To date, the only Vonage product not available through third-party resellers is its Wi-Fi handset.
The company also showed a forthcoming Panasonic 5.8GHz multihandset cordless phone programmed with its service. The phone, which was announced at International CES, will be shipping later in the year, Vonage said.