I often forget when writing for Skype Journal that terminology in the English language may have different meanings in different parts of the English speaking world. For instance, there is no boot on my Canadian car and I’m sure there is no trunk in Martin’s car in Edinburgh. I guess wireless and cordless can have different interpretations in different parts of the world.
Also sometimes I wonder if anyone is reading my blog posts (although I am learning lots of VON Fall 2006 attendees do). But I was glad to see my post where I recommended that Skype drop their WiFi phones drew at least one response questioning my recommendation. Furthermore I recommended that Skype work with Nokia, RIM and the Windows Mobile wireless platforms to include Skype as an option for wireless phones. But a wireless phone is not a cordless phone — in North America at least.
Rest assured, Howard, today I have seen a solution that can meet your requirements for an easy to use phone that your parents can use with no PC and no learning curve, namely, the entire range of cordless phones being shown at VON Fall 2006, especially in the Ascalade booth. Here they are demonstrating the cordless Phillips and NetGear Skype phones announced last week plus models that will be introduced soon by US Robotics, Linksys and Creative Labs. The cradles hold the power adapter to charge these phones; the modules in the background are cordlessly connected to the handsets using DECT technology and include a processor with an embedded Skype client as well as an Ethernet connector for connection to a cable/DSL router and an RJ-11 connector to the PSTN line. While each vendor will be pricing these units, it appears that these base unit devices will sell for about $150 with additional handsets in the $50 to $80 range. So not only is the base solution lower cost than the Skype WiFi phones, you can have additional phone handsets around the house or apartment as appropriate at a much lower cost than buying additional Skype WiFi phones.
Since they sit in the power adapter cradle, there is not a battery issue; also we tested one of them and they accept DTMF tones.
So much for the “engineering” side; now for the marketing side. Selling wireless phones is usually done through carriers with whom wireless phone vendors must establish relationships. The carriers reduce the hardware cost if you will buy a one, two or three year contract for their service. As I mentioned in my previous post, it took RIM four or five years to get to 180 carriers. On the other hand cordless phones are sold directly through electronics retailers with no need for carrier involvement. One or two key distribution relationships can get the product out to a large number of retailers. Just add a broadband connection, plug in the phone, log into your Skype account and go.
Users can simply pick up the phone to make free calls to their Skype contacts or make inexpensive calls to landlines or mobile phone numbers using SkypeOut. These new phones also feature a connection to ordinary PSTN lines for traditional phone calling. A user can access their Skype contact list and view online contact status on the full color screen. In fact, if the Contact includes their mobile and/or landline phone numbers in their Skype profile a menu comes up asking whether call the Skype, wireless or landline phone. Or there are separate buttons to initiate Skype and PSTN phone calls.
Now for the real advantage; these are all “wide bandwidth” phones and incorporate DECT technology resulting in the same high quality voice as we are accustomed to on PC-to-PC Skype calls. While it does not solve the entire problem as to why Skype-to-mobile calls often have quality problems, on the test calls we made today, the voice quality was excellent. And being DECT, working in bands around 1900 MHz, their signals will not collide with other 2.4MHz devices in the home.
Howard, I have no problem recommending these Skype cordless phones as a lower cost, more robust, more reliable and high quality “Skype without a computer” solution for your parents’ use.
BTW, I also saw one other issue today that needs to be resolved with WiFi. Several times today I had problems connecting to the Internet using the VON-supplied routers. But if you looked around the press room there were probably 50 to 75 PC’s in use — all contending for use of the same wireless access point. (Not to mention that my PC problably detected well over 100 wireless access points on the nearby show floor.) Until WiFi can address these capacity and scaling issues, it is not going to replace other wireless phone technologies.
And, in closing, I expect to receive one or more of these phones for more detailed evaluation in the next few weeks.
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