Philips has launched in Australia two cordless phones selling for less
that $160 that operate both as PSTN phones with one model supporting
Skype and the other Windows Live Messenger.
Both are designed to work with a Windows PC running the respective
standard softphone client and Philips claims that, if the PC is set up
and working with the softphone, the cordless phones are totally plug
and play with no set up required. Full Skype or Windows Live
functionality, including conference calling and instant messaging is

Both products will be widely available through retail outlets under a
distribution deal with Ingram Micro. Mark Franklin, director of Ingram
Micro Australia's communications division, said that cordless phone
sales in Australia were running at around two million units per year
and growing. With the Philips units being within the price range for
standard cordless phones, Franklin said they would be an attractive
alternative, but acknowledged that there was a challenge in education
the retailers to promote the products effectively.

He said the products were targeted at mainstream consumers, not the
technically savvy section of the market. As such they represent an
interesting new option: there are already WiFi cordless phones
available that incorporate the Skype softphone and work with Skype
without the need for PC.

For the potential buyer contemplating the two units they will also have
to choose between Skype and Windows Live versions: a choice likely to
be determined by whether their contacts are predominantly on Skype or
Windows Live. (The phones are visually quite different: The Windows
Live version is black, and the Skype version white).

The phones' base stations connect to the PC via the USB port and use
the international standard DECT technology for the wireless link, not
WiFi. Philips claims that because the DECT frequencies are reserved for
cordless phone application, the phones are less prone to interference
than WiFi and also have better indoor coverage.

The Skype model, the Philips VoIP321 sells for $129.95 in a single
handset version and $199.95 in a two handset version, both are packaged
with 60 minutes of call credits for SkypeOut calls. The DECT standard
supports up to five handsets per base station, but Philips says there
are no plans for other combinations or for single handset sales - it
cites market research as indicating consumers rarely upgrade after the
initial purchase. However as the phones are DECT standard, any DECT
handset will be supported for PSTN calling.

The unit has a monochrome backlit screen that shows the user's
contact list and which contacts are online. It automatically
synchronises with the PC contact list. It has an inbuilt speakerphone
and remembers the last 20 missed calls and 10 received calls. Up to 50
phone numbers can be stored. You can get more information about this
phones on

Windows XP or 2000 is required. There are no confirmed plans to offer a
version that will work with Skype on the Mac. Kelly Poon, market
development manager for Skype Asia said the Skype softphone for
Windows, Linux and Mac OS X were quite different and any decision to
have the phone work with these would be up to Philips. Matt Moran,
general manager, Consumer Electronics Philips Australia, said he
expected a Mac version would be available, but could give no concrete

Also, although it was claimed that the product's functioning would
not be affected by upgrades to the Skype softphone, the phone comes
with a version of the Softphone on CD with instructions that this
version should be used for the phone to work correctly

The Microsoft Live Messenger version is rather more expensive and
$159.95 and $249.95 for the dual version, largely because it has a full
colour screen, which maintains the look and feel of Microsoft Live on
the PC. It is also able to emulate the multiple account feature of
Windows Live, enabling each user to select their own account and view
their own contact lists. It is also a speakerphone.

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