Recently I had lunch with Michael and got to chat a bit about Gizmo and other VOIP stuff. I am also secretly coveting the about to be released Net Gear Wifi Phone. While waiting for it to come out I decided to take a peek at what else is in the market.
Although I use Skype a fair amount, I have a specific issue that I am sure is shared by some others. My laptop has the headphone attachment at the front of the keyboard. If that isn't enough of a deterrent, I also find that if I have headphones on that I am listening to music as a force of habit. What this means is that my ever ringing phone goes unanswered as long as I have the headset on. Because of that, I don't use headphones and also don't really use Skype as much as I would like.
My first look at what was available was USB connected phone devices, you know, kind of like a headset except it is a phone. I am not sure how that was going to help me. I decided to pass on this. I came across the Linksys CIT 200 Skype phone after digging around and thought that this was an interesting idea. This device allows you to connect a USB broadcast node to your PC or laptop that communicates with a wireless phone base station that can be anywhere within 150 feet or so. Although I don't really like the idea of another device connecting out to my laptop as an aftermarket part (it should be baked in) I was immediately attracted to the idea that I could now disembody a phone from my PC and use Skype.
A bit about the phone. It looks like a phone. I can dial numbers and such although I don't plan on doing that in the near term because I have these things called cell phones that I have on me at all times. At the bottom of the dialpad is a button that says Skype. When you pick up the phone and click on the icon, the device connects to your PC and Skype client and your buddy list is populated on your handset. How cool is that? You can then scroll down to the person that you want to call, click on them, and presto, free VOIP calling.
I haven't really taken the phone through a lot of uses so far but within the first day of setting it up, I spent 45 minutes or so talking to a potential hire from London and I have to say it was crystal clear. I wandered the office chatting like I was on a call except it was international and it was free.
I have to say that I am very fascinated by the idea that we are developing combinations of hardware and software platforms that not only allow us to do interesting things because of our connectivity but that we are increasingly able to proliferate or redistribute that connectivity in new ways. Although to say that I am becoming a Skype broadcast node for my office is a slight stretch, it isn't too far from the truth. In fact I have a couple of other examples of this proliferation of connectivity in two follow up posts to this one coming soon.