CES 2007: Skype Hardware on Display II: Skype Appliances

In a previous post I presented several of the “PC Free” Skype dual mode cordless phones that were announced and/or exhibited at CES 2007. In this post I will cover other Skype appliance hardware that I encountered as I walked the show floor. (Note: click on the slide show to get the complete slide show in a larger format.)

At one presentation I was able to hear about the TrendNet ClearSky VoIP Conference Phone Kit. With its Bluetooth connection, this speaker phone can be freely moved about the office within a range of 100 meter (328 feet). More to follow once I have received an evaluation unit.

A new category introduced at the press conference was the Desktop Internet Phone – again a “PC Free” phone. Belgian vendor Topcom’s Webt@alker 5000 features a crisp LCD display accessing many Skype features via a menu and a large button touch keypad. Their forthcoming Topcom Wirless Expansion Kit will allow this “PC Free” phone to be connected to your local network via WiFi. The Webt@lker 5000 will provide an interesting user interface that I look forward to investigating further in a few weeks. Phil has reported more details here. From a market perspective I see the Desktop Internet phones more as a business phone while the Dual Mode Cordless phones will serve as residential phones linking friends and family.

A rather interesting concept was the QOOL Labs SkyQube GSM Voice Adapter. This was first reported in Skype Journal last spring but appeared to be operational at CES. The primary benefit we see for this is mobile phone roaming charge arbitrage using a combination of SkypeOut and SMS messaging.

Monday morning we heard about Skype’s being embedded in the future on the new Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. Another Tablet vendor who had embedded Skype (not yet certified) was the Pepper Pad 3 Handheld Web Computer. One interesting aspect about these non-Windows Internet Tablets is “:who is the target market demographic” given all the mobile smartphones and other Windows Mobile platforms; I could not get any answer beyond “maybe the geek community”.

My last visit of the show late Thursday afternoon was to the Gennum booth where they were displaying the Skype Certified nXZEN 5000 VoIP heaset (which I had been using with my Blackberry during the show). My next step is to install their Dongle Manager software and dongle itself to check out its Skype functionality. Certainly on my Blackberry it provided excellent voice quality provided you don’t lose the rubber grommet that assists in the isolation of your ear canal from surrounding sound. But they gave me a lifetime supply of grommets.

Finally one product that was not certified. Certainly an interesting concept but also demonstrates the need for Skype to protect the intellectual property associated with their brand. The Y5 World Hand Device (yes, that is the name on the brochure) incorporates not only Skype but also an embedded Windows Media Player and IE7 without a full Windows Mobile implementation. From the stickers attached to their demonstration unit display panels (shown in the photo), you can see an attempt to trade on the Skype name. This will be an interesting case more for the intellectual property issues than any feature issues.

Note to Qool Labs and Y5 World — forget the fancy Flash Player content that has to download to even access your website. Shows you do not understand marketing and the website 10 second rule … if I can’t get it in 10 to 15 seconds, I’m out of there, man!

Tags: Skype, CES2007, TrendNet, Topcom, Webt@alker 5000, Pepper Pad, nXZEN 5000

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About Jim Courtney

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

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