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Fri, Jan 06, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Host of online telephony products vie for attention


Broadband gear maker NetGear Inc is introducing a cordless phone to dial Skype Internet calls over any Wi-Fi connection without a personal computer, joining a parade of new products at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) bringing online telephony to the mainstream.

Other announcements at CES involving VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, included new phones from two major names in consumer electronics, Panasonic Communications Co and Philips Electronics NV.

Both companies said that they are introducing cordless phones integrated with Skype, the popular provider of free and low-cost calls recently acquired by eBay Inc for US$2.6 billion.

In addition, Panasonic said it is introducing a cordless system for VoIP phone service from Vonage Holdings Corp, while Philips unveiled an alliance with Microsoft Corp to introduce VoIP products.

None of the products are available yet, and no prices were disclosed.

The NetGear WiFi phone will be compatible with public hotspots such as those available at coffee houses in addition to wireless routers in the home or office.

While a growing number of cordless handsets and desktop phones are integrated with Skype software, those devices generally plug into a PC or a special adapter that is connected to a broadband modem.

The VoIP-enabled phones from Panasonic and Philips are the first Internet calling products targeting the consumer market from those companies.

The move into consumer VoIP by the two leading names in home electronics and entertainment offers another sign of how the technology has begin to shake its image as cutting-edge or unproven.

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