What do you do if you're a popular P2P service desperate to prove the ad hoc connections your software enables aren't only useful for stealing music? You scout around for new, more legitimate applications - ideally ones that might actually bring you some money into the bargain.
So today we hear that StreamCast Networks, which offers the Morpheus P2P app, has begun touting the system as a Voice over IP (VoIP) network. It has begun selling the Morpheus Voicebox, a $50 phone-to-Net connection unit.
In addition to the Voicebox itself, which links a regular phone handset to the Internet via a PC and its modem, StreamCast plans to charge a one-off $25 connection fee and then a monthly subscription of $6.95, $14.95 or $24.95, depending on the amount of bundled call time you want.
The low-end tariff provides unlimited calls to phones in the US and Canada for 3.9 cents a minute. The $14.95 plan includes 1000 minutes of free calls to US and Canadian numbers, followed by a further 1000 minutes billed at 1.5 cents a minute. Beyond that, calls are charged at the 3.9 cents rate.
The top-end tariff provides unlimited free calls to North American numbers. All three plans provide free calls to fellow Voicebox owners and international calls billed on a per country rate. Each plan is billed on a monthly basis, and there is no minimum contract period, StreamCast said. It promised users would not be hit by "hidden charges".
The service, being offered in conjunction with Florida-based i2Telecom, is being pitched as an alternative to pre-pay phone cards. The Voicebox is essentially i2Telecom's MG-2 InternetTalker rebadged. StreamCast joins eight companies already selling the product.
Meanwhile, StreamCast is currently once more facing the music and movie industries in court, as they appeal against an April 2003 District Court ruling that StreamCast and other P2P software providers are not liable for the illegal activity undertaken by users of that software. ®