Computex 2005 Numerous Taiwanese manufacturers began pitching for Skype users' business this week, as the annual Computex hardware show played host to a range of gadgets designed to make the P2P-based VoIP software easier to use.
And there were a fair few non-Skype VoIP handsets on display that tie into consumer and corporate Wi-Fi networks to make low-cost or no-cost voice calls.
Some devices, such as a pair shown by Wistron, provide a mobile phone look and feel. Wistron NeWeb's two handsets - one a candybar design (the SRP-81), the other a clamshell (SKPD-1) - can connect to any 802.11b/g access point and contact any SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) compliant service. They provide the usual phone-like phone book features, along with signal processing techniques like echo cancellation, voice activity detection and noise reduction to improve the call quality. They sport colour screens, polyphonic ringtones, the works. There's no texting, but they do support POP3 email.
A unique feature, so far as we can see, is an integrated Wi-Fi sniffer to help users locate Wi-Fi hotspots. A Wistron NeWeb spokesman said the company was seeking vendors to badge the handsets.
Good Way Technology's AA2600 also has a mobile phone look, but there's no screen and no radio - it just connects to your computer, whether it's a Mac, or a PC running Linux or Windows, by USB cable. Good Way said the handset works with a range of VoIP apps, including Net2Phone, Babble and MSN Messenger, but the call-make and call-break keys tap into their virtual equivalents in Skype.
Viewsun's QPE V601 is a wireless device, but it connects directly to a PC via a USB dongle - the radio has a range of 10m (30ft). The 53g unit is essentially a handheld Skype controller - you push the buttons and they trigger activity in the Skype application. There's no screen. Powered by two AAA batteries, the V601 provides 20 hours' talk-time and 4300 hours on stand-by, Viewsun claimed.
Hong Kong-based Speed Dragon's consumer-friendly VoIP handset was even more mobile phone, almost exactly resembling a Nokia handset phone.
Senao's SI-7800H-L has got a certain Nokia look about it too. Like the Wistron devices, it operates via a Wi-Fi network, and uses the 802.11e quality of service standard and the 802.11f access point-to-access point communication protocol to allow the unit to be handed over between access points smoothly, the company claimed.
Its styling shows that it's clearly pitched at corporates, a fact confirmed by its support for WPA security and 802.1x authentication. There are the usual mobile phone-like features, such as call waiting, call forwarding, phone book and call log. The battery provides more than 100 hours' stand-by time and four hours' talk time.
FIC, meanwhile, has its eye on the cordless market with its Wi-Fi Skype device, which ships with its own base-station/recharge cradle that can also connect to the PSTN. According to an FIC representative, the handset communicates with the base-station using 802.11b, though future generations of the product will also support DECT. ®