Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Skype + WiFi + Itty Bitty Phone

As a sometime rock star, I can attest to the difficulty of making and receiving phone calls while touring the globe. My cell phone won't work overseas. Every country has its own version of pre-paid phone cards. They're expensive (the last time I was in Europe, I racked up more than $300 in phone calls to Elizabeth). And they're complicated: Every country has its own arcane formula of prefixes, country codes, area codes, exchanges, and extensions. The friendly robotic instructions will often not be in the language of your choice.

Those days are over. SMC has announced a WiFi phone with embedded Skype. Skype is a popular software system for making free calls over the Internet. They have a service for making calls to other Skype users and to regular telephones, and they have a service that gives your Skype account an ordinary phone number that people can use to call you from any phone. To this point, Skype has been a tool for nerds who like to keep their laptop computers around them at all times. With the advent of SMC's new phone, you won't need a computer at all to make and receive calls from anywhere.

There is a major caveat, of course: you have to have access to a WiFi network to make or receive calls. This isn't so bad, especially with the proliferation of Internet cafés worldwide. And it's only a matter of time before ubiquitous wireless Internet access blankets the earth.


Anonymous said...

hmmm, interesting to know. Looks very simular to Netgears WiFi Skype phone that has been around (in pre-order stage) for a while now.

Zach A.T. said...

Yeah, I totally missed that NetGear phone. SMC is asking $199 vs. NetGear at $299.