In a press release issued today, Skype announced “collaboration with [four] hardware partners to deliver the first WiFi phones for Skype(TM) software, making Internet calling on the move a reality”. Basically these devices will eliminate the need for a PC to make Skype calls in a “authorization-free” WiFi-enabled environment. Sounds like we may finally see the mildly overdue offering from NETGEAR but they will have some competition.
Andy at VoIP Watch comments: “Unfortunately, the phones remain only useful with open hotspots and do not provide the ability to be used on services supplied by T-Mobile, Boingo or The Cloud.” I can add Bell Mobility (who provide service at Starbucks’ Canadian locations) and Rogers Hotspots in Canada to the list.
The easy to use devices come with everything built-in to connect to Skype via any personal, business or free public WiFi access point that does not require browser authentication. The phones are extremely easy to set-up and use with automatic synchronization to a Skype account and contacts. The devices support common WiFi encryption protocols including WEP, WPA, and WPA2 with PSK support.
So while at home or visiting friends, businesses and Internet cafés with freely accessible (but hopefully encrypted) WiFi, these could be useful devices. But, with the browser-based authentication required by most hotels, I’ll still be using my PC to make Skype calls to bypass hotel switchboards while on the road.
We look forward to the chance to evaluate these units when available in the fall.