The Home Phone Market Goes Cordless

Last week Skype issued two press releases (Philips and NetGear here and Panasonic here) relating to partnerships that involve cordless Skype phones. No PC required! Just Plug-and-Call — from anywhere in your home. Basically they comprise a base station that connects directly to your home router as a well as a cradle for the base station handset;, they provide a degree of freedom that allows you to make Skype calls from anywhere within the cordless phone’s radio range. Another vendor, Ascalade, has also announced they are showing Skype Certified cordless phones at Fall VON.

Why the sudden interest in cordless phones. Well, Russell Shaw references two more cordless Skype phone announcements (US Robotics and Linksys); then he goes on to explain all this activity may result from the fact that our homes are getting larger (about 50% on average relative to 1975) and we want the flexibility, range and portability inherent to cordless phones. He goes on to point out other factors: more rooms, more air conditioning and a higher percentage of two story homes.

Garrett Smith goes on to reinforce Russell’s arguments, stating that his sales data and sales floor experience interacting with customers demonstrate that customers will pay a premium (of over $100 per handset) for the convenience:

In general, most consumers found the entire process surrounding the use of a telephone adaptor difficult to fully wrap their head around. What if I have five phones in my home (a typical telephone adaptor only allows for two phone lines)? Does this mean only two of them can use VoIP? What if I want all five phones to utilize VoIP (you need to use multiple adaptors)?

Once again simplicity for the customer rules! S/he doesn’t want the hassle of configuring ATA adapters, being tied down to a single room to make phone calls or rewiring their home to accommodate Skype access. An additional challenge for Skype cordless phones will be to bring the Skype Contact client to the phone’s handset via a user-intuitive interface (probably involving a display screen and five-way joystick). Since Skype Users don’t have a “phone number” this combination replaces the keypad to “dial” a call; simplicity of operation and access will once again determine who are the winners in this play. The VoIPvoice UConnect adapter gets part way there; it uses speech recognition to select the Contact when away from the PC that connects the handset to Skype access (and, of course, uses standard phone numbers for SkypeOut calls) – just need to remember the list of Skype Contact Names and to hit the “#” key to start a pure Skype call.

So when viewing these cordless phones at VON next week, keep in mind that customers want a familiar user interface (ideally an extension of the traditional TouchTone keypad), simplified installation (just plug-and-phone), an intuitive contact directory and the savings associated with Skype and SkypeOut if they are being asked to pay a premium price. Of course Skype Journal will be there to report on our experience with them.

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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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