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Netgear Skype Phone


CES 2006 - Part Six

It would be hard to cover CES and not talk about VoIP, with many different solutions on offer all over the show. The average consumer may still not be familiar with the term VoIP, but there’s a good chance that they will have heard of or even used, Skype, with 50 million users worldwide.

Patrick Lowe, the CEO and founder of Netgear was on hard at the show to show off a new product his company had developed in conjunction with Skype, that he thinks will raise that user figure up to 500 million. This is the Netgear Skype phone, proudly pictured here by Mr Lowe.

This uses Wi-Fi and enables you to call your Skype contacts for free from any Wi-Fi hotspot in the world that you have access to. You will be able to access all your Skype contacts and see when they are online and dial easily.

While competitors such as Linksys has a cordless Skype phone, this uses DECT and can only be used in the home and still requires a PC.

The Wi-Fi features will really make Skype a lot more useable. Skype is great but the fact that you have to be connected to a PC, usually with a headset, means that it will never mainstream. Even the USB phone versions are still limited by that tether, so a Wi-Fi Skype handset is a great move. The issue still remains that there is great resistance in many countries to open free Wi-Fi access as applications such as Skype could seriously impact on the local telecommunications monopolies. In response to this, Mr Lowe said he believed that, “barriers will have to be broken down. Governments need to listen to what the people want.”

What we want is to use our phones wherever we want and not be completely ripped off. £1.25 per minute to use my mobile in the US and 99p per minute just to receive a call! Are you listening Vodafone?

Lowe did not announce pricing but he did say that it would be as affordable as its popular routers, which would make sense for a phone aimed at the people. While Skype on the desktop has just added video this is clearly not an option on the Skype phone as there’s no camera. However, when questioned, Lowe suggested that that is something that could well be added to a future version.

To me the phone looks very much like a Sony Ericsson T630 but Lowe stated that Netgear’s own design team worked on the phone. I guess they all just had T630s.

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