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January 3, 2006

Skype partners roll out the hardware at CES


The International Consumer Electronics Show starts Thursday, but to get ahead of the cloud of press releases some vendors have “launched” early and Skype is no exception. Their big news isn’t with Skype’s base VoIP service, but with the hardware partners they have signed up – Alliances with Creative, D-Link, IPEVO, Kodak, Netgear, Panasonic, and VTech Illustrate Skype Market Leadership.

The emphasis seems to be mostly on integrating Skype with normal phone equipment:

VTech USB7100 Phone – availability of the previously announced VTech USB phone, expandable with up to four handsets and allows users to view their online contacts. It’s dual line for both Skype and regular telephone service and has cordless handsets.

D-Link Skype USB Phone Adapter (DPH-50U) – a Skype phone adapter that enables the use of Skype on a traditional phone.

The D-Link Skype USB phone adapter (DPH-50U) lets users accept both regular telephone and Skype calls from the same phone for added flexibility. When consumers are talking on a traditional telephone line and receive an incoming Skype call, they can easily switch lines to take the Skype call or vice versa, just like a typical call-waiting feature.

Conference calls can also be connected between ordinary telephone lines and Skype. For added convenience, the D-Link Skype USB phone adapter includes a lighted display to indicate whether an incoming call is from a traditional telephone or from a Skype user.

Panasonic – a cordless telephone product that interfaces directly with Skype, allowing users to make and receive Skype calls and traditional calls using the same device

As its initial offering, Panasonic plans to launch a Skype compatible cordless telephone product that will enable select Panasonic cordless telephones to interface directly with Skype. With the new product, consumers will be able to make and receive Skype and traditional calls using the same Panasonic cordless phone.

There are also the more usual Skype phones:

Creative Skype Internet PhonePLUS – a standalone phone that enables anyone to make free Skype calls over the Internet without a PC connection. (That’s all the details so far.)

IPEVO Fly-1 Cordless Handset and Xing Speakerphone – PC and Mac compatible IPEVO Fly-1 cordless Skype USB handset and an IPEVO Xing Skype USB speakerphone.

FLY.1 is a USB cordless handset with a speakerphone that works exclusively with Skype. It is designed to integrate the Skype experience with the operational familiarity of a telephone. The cordless handset offers portability and enables communication using Skype away from the user’s PC or Macintosh through a wireless USB dock.

The Xing USB speakerphone is the first device from IPEVO designed for business teleconferencing using Skype. The cross-shaped device is designed to sit atop a desk or boardroom table allowing for multi-user participation through four separate speakers. The device is not restricted by a phone jack, allowing for increased mobility and user convenience.

And some items that are hard to categorize:

NETGEAR – a new communications device to be unveiled at CES on Wednesday, January 4th and no details have been revealed.

KODAK Photo Voice – a beta version of the first Skype certified online photo sharing service.

Eastman Kodak Company and Skype™, the global Internet communications company, announce the availability of the latest innovation in digital storytelling ― KODAK Photo Voice ― that combines live voice and online photo sharing. The beta version of KODAK Photo Voice, the first Skype certified online photo sharing experience, is now available as a free download at www.kodakgallery.com/photovoice.

“Today’s families and social networks are scattered around the globe. Staying connected through photo sharing remains an important element in maintaining closer personal relationships,” said Sandra Morris, general manager of Consumer Imaging Services at Kodak. “Traditional social gatherings that once took place around the radio, television or telephone are now happening around the computer, mobile phone or camera. KODAK Photo Voice marks the next step in this evolution.”

KODAK Photo Voice is a brand new way to relive memories, empowering two people to simultaneously view a customized slideshow, and to reminisce and react to each picture. Imagine if Grandma could see pictures from her grandson’s first day at school while he narrates every moment of the experience over Skype. Perhaps an old roommate could share detailed photos and recount stories of his new life in London, as his friend back home in California reacts to each picture.

Sorry, but this last one seems like a solution in search of a problem, but it is free.

Update 1/04: They had some trouble with the demo, but Netgear announced a Skype WiFi phone:

The NETGEAR WiFi phone will make mobile Internet telephony a reality for Skype users. Unlike other devices that must connect with a PC, NETGEAR’s Skype WiFi phone will work wherever a consumer is connected to a wireless Internet access point — be that in a home, office, cafe, open public hotspot, or any open municipal wireless access point being deployed worldwide.

The NETGEAR phone is pre-loaded with Skype’s software, ready out-of-the-box to use with a wireless network. All a user needs to do after turning on the phone is enter a Skype username and password. The Skype software pulls up the user’s full contact list, displays the connection status on the phone screen, and allows the consumer to connect to any other Skype user for free. The phone will also allow users to connect to non-Skype users with the SkypeOut™ feature. More information on NETGEAR’s Skype WiFi phone, including pricing and availability, is planned for the first quarter of 2006.

In addition to the Skype Wifi phone, NETGEAR and Skype also announced that the NETGEAR RangeMax Wireless Router (WPN824) with Smart MIMO technology, a 2006 CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award honoree and the industry’s #1 selling MIMO-G product, will be equipped to optimize Skype.

The phone seems similar to the Accton Skype phone and the UTStarcom Vonage phone I’ve mentioned previously.


Posted at 7:44 pm. Filed under Companies, Creative, D-Link, Internet, IPEVO, Kodak, MIMO, Netgear, Panasonic, Skype, VoIP, Vonage, VTech, Wi-Fi

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November 14, 2005

Netgear Rangemax 240 starts next-gen Wi-Fi standard showdown


Here’s the press release – NETGEAR® First to Deliver Wireless at Wired Speeds with Launch of RangeMax 240

NETGEAR Inc., a worldwide provider of technologically advanced, branded networking products, today announced its RangeMax 240 family of wireless networking products, the industry’s first wireless networking solution capable of delivering data at speeds previously possible only through wired Ethernet connections. Offering superior reliability and coverage, hallmarks of the RangeMax line of products, while increasing wireless speeds up to 240 Mbps, NETGEAR’s RangeMax 240 family eliminates dead spots in home or office environments and provides fast enough wireless speeds to support simultaneous bandwidth-intensive applications such as high-definition video, Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony, streaming audio, and online gaming.

NETGEAR’s RangeMax 240 Wireless Router (WPNT834) incorporates advanced MIMO technology with Adaptive Channel Expansion. It provides a data rate of up to 240Mbps when used with the RangeMax 240 Wireless Notebook Adapter (WPNT511) and USB 2.0 Adapter (WPNT121), meaning that for the first time wireless has attained an effective throughput of up to 100Mbps comparable to that of 10/100 Fast Ethernet wired networks. In addition, it is compatible with and connects simultaneously to RangeMax 240, RangeMax, and all other 802.11b/g clients. Adapting to changing wireless conditions is unique to NETGEAR’s RangeMax technology, and RangeMax 240 dynamically avoids interference from neighboring wireless networks to maintain the most reliable, high-performance, long-range network connections to clients.

Here are the product pages for the router and notebook adapter. Online retail seems to be about $170 and $110 respectively. The USB adapter will not appear until 2006.

Sounds great, but there’s a fly in the ointment as Ephraim Schwartz describes at InfoWorld:

Battle lines are now being drawn over the next-generation WLAN standard, IEEE 802.11n, which promises speeds of 100Mbps and higher, as well as increased range.

Behind a seemingly innocuous announcement last week of a new wireless router from Netgear lies a major WLAN industry schism that pits the likes of Cisco, Intel, and Sony against Nokia, Texas Instruments, and Airgo Networks, the chipmaker for Netgear.

Unfortunately, the real losers in the skirmish could be enterprise customers buying nonstandard implementations of 802.11n under the mistaken belief that they will be interoperable with other products.

Vendors looking to increase ever-eroding margins on commodity 802.11a, b, and g gear have been pushing for higher speeds and a faster ratification of 802.11n. Tired of the wait, Airgo Networks designed its own 802.11n-like chip set to be used first by Netgear in its RangeMax 240 router, announced last week, which has a maximum performance of 240Mbps.

Although it is backward-compatible with 802.11a, b, and g, it is still unclear whether Airgo’s MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) Gen3 chip set will work with the actual 802.11n standard, admitted Dave Borison, director of product management at Airgo.

And to the point, Airgo is part of a industry group called WWiSE which is in competition with a group called the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC), with members such as Atheros, Cisco, Intel, Symbol, and Toshiba that is developing its own version of the standard and products to match.

This isn’t particularly new news or limited to enterprise customers since “pre-n” routers are an easy consumer purchase for home Wi-Fi and have been for some time. You just have to keep compatibility in mind with all your gear until the standard gets sorted out. Those of us old enough to live through the dial-up modem standard wars are familiar with impatient manufacturers leapfrogging standards and it was worse for modems because usage was much less likely to be exclusively “in house”. What saves you in diverse environments is the backward compatibility to earlier standards. Also at some point the vendors will also start claiming upgradeability to the eventual formal standard, but it’s still too early for that with pre-n.


Posted at 11:02 am. Filed under Airgo, Atheros, Brands, Cisco, Companies, Intel, MIMO, Netgear, Nokia, Rangemax, Sony, Symbol, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Wi-Fi

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