While there seemed great confusion this week over whether Asus wanted to publicly announce the World's first dedicated Skype videophone or not (the release went out then was retracted) it has ended the week by finally fessing up...
The 'AiGuru SV1' was shown off to we cynical hacks at a tidy Skype event in London last night and is a slightly strange looking beasty with dad-friendly controls, a bright 7in colour LCD and integrated VGA webcam, WiFi, speaker and microphone.
The concept is simple: unhook Skype from your PC, put the SV1 in any room in your house and make free, unlimited video calls (Skype-to-Skype) over the web to friends and relatives around the world.
Now while I'm happy to leave reviews to the rest of the team I will say the SV1 makes a strong initial impression and you could indeed leave Great Auntie Ethel alone with it and expect a fairly painless experience. On the other hand there are also a few issues which may hinder the first generation device.
Firstly battery life is hardly stellar offering a mere 20 minutes of talk time and 30 minutes of standby meaning while it cuts the cables from your PC it doesn't cut the cables from your wall socket. Secondly - and this is a biggie: price. At £199.95 the SV1 costs more than a number of netbooks so why anyone would buy it over, say, Asus' own Eee PC 701 which currently retails for just £159, has its own integrated webcam and WiFi, offers a Skype experience on its own 7in screen, has vastly better battery life and provides, well - a full computing environment (!) is rather beyond me.
That said, the market for very heavy Skype users - especially in the less tech savvy end user area - could still be tempted, though I have to say a second generation sub £100 device is surely the way forward...