Skype Hardware Presence on the CES 2008 Show Floor

Philips, Sony, IPEVO, Nokia, Belkin, Intel MID demonstrating Skype-enabled hardware.

As outlined in my recent Skype Primer series there are many dimensions to the Skype ecosystem: core real time conversation services, hardware, mobile and partner solutions. At CES we encountered two of these dimensions:

  • Skype itself was promoting the spread of mobile access to Skype, supported by displays from three mobile device partners
  • Skype hardware partners were demonstrating various phone, headset and webcam offerings.

While providing a brief overview here, there will be future posts as we gain more experience with these offerings.

Philips was exhibiting their 841 PC-Free Dual Mode Cordless Phone (lower left), introduced at CES last year, along with two new offerings:

  • Their VoIP251 (upper right) allows for the addition of a DECT 6.0 cordless Internet phone for Skype calls to a home or office environment to complement an existing landline phone. Users are no longer confined to a USB connection. The VoIP251 integrates a built-in display so users can view active, online contacts at all times. And it supports both PC and Mac platforms.
  • Their VoIP151 (center right) is designed as a travel companion USB Skype phone; it also supports both PC and Mac platforms. The integrated display lets users easily view their contacts; the handset has been designed for simple cable management by neatly rolling the cable around it.

IPEVO demonstrated their ability to craft unique solutions with their exhibit that included two unique products:

  • Their POV WebCam that lets users share their “point of view” during Skype sessions. One feature that makes it unique for Skype users: snapshots captured with the camera can then be sent to other Skype contacts via Skype’s file transfer. It also includes software for remote monitoring via Skype Video. But its main differentiator comes from their press release:

Unlike conventional web cameras designed to focus on the user’s head, PoV is a detachable viewing tool that offers the freedom to capture images and video from any angle and vantage point.

With its pen-like form factor, PoV encourages picking up and pointing. When not held, the camera naturally rests on a base that stands on a tabletop or can be clamped to a laptop or monitor. A well-designed holder clip allows PoV to be attached or detached with a simple drop / pull motion.

Six newly WiFi-enabled IPEVO SOLO desktop phones allowed booth visitors to call anywhere worldwide via Skype or SkypeOut. I was able to make a call back home with excellent voice quality. (You can see people in the background of the picture above making calls.). From their press release:

An always-on device, SOLO lets users place Skype calls without a computer. Equipped with an RJ-45 Ethernet connector, SOLO works wherever a broadband Internet connection is available. In addition, the new Wi-Fi Dongle unveiled at CES brings wireless capability to the device, enabling both home and office users to choose the best spot for their Skype calls, as they no longer need a wired connection to a router.

IPEVO’s North American GM Edware Lucero emphasized to me IPEVO’s focus on “experience-driven” internet devices, responding to customer needs; they certainly demonstrated it here with these unique offerings. Much of this customer feedback comes from their previous affiliation with Taiwan’s PChome Online portal service from which IPEVO spun off last summer. They also need to be commended for finding a way to get a reliable and robust WiFi connection amongst the “WiFi” confusion and limitations that are often encountered at large exhibitions such as this.

Sony had two stands with Skype-enabled products: the PlayStation Portable and new mylo COM-2. Skype will become available to current PlayStation Portable owners via a system software update to the PlayStation Portable; the feature set includes, in addition to Skype-to-Skype and SkypeOut calling, contact list management, presence and acceptance of SkypeIn calls. No mention is made of Skype text chat in the press release. On the other hand a footnote to the press release mentions: “To enjoy Skype features on PSP, users will need Memory Stick DuoTM, a wireless Internet connection and a Skype compatible audio input device.”

The Belkin booth demonstrated a new dual mode Skype PC Free desktop phone with a full color display; while buried in a “model” bedroom, booth personnel were very aware of the Skype phone’s presence. More interesting at the Belkin booth was their Flywire system for wirelessly controlling home theatre systems.

The second generation Sony mylo COM-2 provides a variety of web entertainment applications including web browsing, a 1.3 megapixel camera, support for IM via Yahoo, AIM, Google Talk and Skype, widgets for Google Search and YouTube amongst others, a music player and games.

For Skype it builds on user experience with the original mylo by introducing a significantly enhanced Skype user interface as well as supporting additional traditional Skype features. Full Instant Messaging (presence and chat), Skype calling and a much more complete account management feature set are amongst the capabilities introduced on this version. In the demonstration I was given, they showed how one can take a picture and then use Skype’s file transfer to send the snapshot to other Skype users. MacSkype? According to the press release: “the new COM-2 mylo communicator devices will receive free access to participating Wayport® hotspot locations in the U.S. including more than 9,000 McDonald’s™ locations until Dec. 31, 2010.”

When I visited the Nokia booth I found that both of the Nokia 810’s available for booth visitor trials had the Skype client open. Obviously a popular feature. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard should provide a better keyboarding experience although I found it almost as difficult as an iPhone for getting the right keys. Also the limited WiFi connectivity in the booth did not allow for any serious evaluation.

Finally the Intel MID booth showed several manufacturers prototype Mobile Internet Devices; however, they were not able to locate the unit with the Skype demonstration. According to Skype’s press release the first implementation of Skype for Mobile Internet Linux on Intel MID’s will be made available “during the first half of 2008”. The full Intel booth also showed strong promotion of WiMax, which is to be supported in MID’s.

Tags: Skype, Skype Hardware, Skype Phones, Philips, Philips VoIP, IPEVO, IPEVO POV webcam, IPEVO SOLO, Belkin Skype Phone, Sony PlayStation Portable, Sony mylo, Sony mylo COM-2, Nokia N810, Intel MID

About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

, , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.