While some cellular carriers do everything they can to lock down what you're able to use their bandwidth for - VoIP taking top-spot for App Least Wanted - network 3 Italy seems to be taking the opposite route. They've partnered with Skype to bring out a co-branded handset that gives easy access to the VoIP giant's network, and they're even encouraging customers use it with up to ten hours free Skype talktime until the end of January 2008.
It's really quite fascinating what people like about different gadgets. Take, for example, this VoIP speakerphone. People aren't marveling at its small size or cool technology, but rather its keen ability to transform.
Its small size is actually quite refreshing, as it weighs only 1.25 pounds, which is considerably less than some other units. One thing to note is that it does have a USB connector so it can suck juice from a PC, or you can just use the included AC adapter.
In their latest high-end motherboard ASUS has slapped a cute little Linux multi-boot distro in there, called Express Gate, to give access to media functionality without needing to load Windows. Now It's conjured up by DeviceVM and originally called Splashtop, and its unique selling point is that it not only features a media player or even an internet browser, but almost instant access to Skype for VOIP calls. Now there's a video of the system in action.
T-Mobile is really pushing their HotSpot @Home service, which is good for everyone. Who wouldn't want a phone that makes calls for free when you're at home, or at some of your most frequented places? According to a new FCC approval, they may be teaming up with Linksys for a new router. This time they're not just looking at your cell phone.
According to reports the service basically pulled the plug on the whole operation. So for those of you who thought you were getting a deal that was too good to be true (phone service for a whole year for $99), turns out you were right.
Sony's PSP seems to have been losing out in column inches to Nintendo's arguably more "pick up and play" DS handheld, and so the company is looking to leverage its strong multimedia and internet capabilities to pick up those all-important headlines. In a deal with UK telco BT the PSP will at first gain VOIP - in voice and video flavours - followed by upgrades allowing calls and messages to PCs, landlines and mobiles.
If you're going to give up valuable lounge space to a gadget then you want it to deliver, and SysMaster's Tornado M10 Digital Media Center looks like it offers a fair range of features for a box only six inches long. The spec list is a veritable pic'n'mix of acronyms: IPTV, VoIP, IM, PVR... and then you add in things like voicemail, a webcam for video conferencing, email and media streaming.
In my round-up of Nokia N95 vox-pops I mentioned the depressing news that certain UK carriers had stripped out the handset's VOIP support, obviously seeing that as a threat to their own stranglehold on voice calls. Well, if you needed any further evidence take a look at this video of an operator-modified N95:
When I'm put in charge of gadgets I think I'll draw up a "Golden Rules of Ergonomics" that all manufacturers must adhere to. Number one on that list would be "don't make your tech look like poop", closely followed by number two, "if you're going to have a keyboard, I don't want my thumbs to ache after using it two minutes". Sadly MIU's M*free 'Hybrid Dual Portable Computer' would fall foul of both of these rules, and probably a few as-yet-unwritten more - while the idea of a multi-function VOIP/wireless-IP handheld is great, their industrial design appears to be "make a shoebox out of plastic, and then put all the gubbins in".
Perhaps I'm being unduly harsh. I mean, there are very few dual-OS VOIP handsets with fold-out screens, interchangeable function cartridges and full QWERTY keyboards out there, so MIU have been forced to innovate on their own as opposed to just tweak someone else's design. But really, who thought it was a great idea to sink a keyboard deep inside a hard-edged plastic gully, where your poor thumbs will jam up against the sides?
If VOIP is your thing and you're looking for a handset then Wired News might just have the review round-up for you. They take a look at a variety of handsets from the DECT wireless through to the cheap'n'cheerful USB attached, with ratings to help you decide whether they're worth your cash or worth throwing to the dog.
If you're looking for more information, a quick glance at the SlashGear archives shows a whole lot of VOIP coverage; you're spoilt for choice!