CES News Frenzy
Lots of news and releases are coming out of CES. Among the many news items worth noting is the Skype-Netgear Wi-Fi phone—no PC required.
The phone will work:
" … in a home, office, cafe, open public hotspot, or any open municipal wireless access point being deployed worldwide. The Skype experience remains the same, in that users can make free domestic and international calls, as well as host conference calls and chat, with other Skype users anywhere in the world, and to non-Skype users for a small fee. With this device, headphones or USB phones plugged into a laptop or PC are not required."
We wrote about VoIP and its potential impact on the directory listings database, PPCall and other related subjects here.
There are other such devices that enable consumers to use VoIP without going through a PC. Commoca offers one such device. AOL TotalTalk offers calling with an adapter on users' current phones. These are just two examples of ways that consumers can tap VoIP without having to use a USB mic/headset to make calls via IM (which is a barrier to mainstream adoption).
What's particularly interesting about the Skype-Netgear phone is that it's wireless and will work at home, Starbucks or anywhere there's a high-speed connection. (Now think about municipal Wi-Fi and it starts to get really interesting.)
The next generation of traditional cellphones will have Wi-Fi embedded (they'll have to). Consumers won't want to carry multiple phones. But what if there were one phone—maybe with a handset I could take with me and one that I left at home—that worked anywhere there was a Wi-Fi connection and on the wireless networks of the major carriers?
You start to get the picture.
In late 2006 or early 2007, the stars will start to align for VoIP and more U.S. consumers will begin adopting—unless PSTN telcos start lowering prices to prevent it. But Wi-Fi calling is where cable may have an advantage over telcos in the TV-data-voice-wireless bundled features war ("triple-quadruple play").
More to come. Here's a roundup of VoIP-related announcements (so far) at CES.
Coverage of Gates' "digital lifestyle"/IPTV/Vista discussion and announcements here and here and here.