Thanks To Skype, IP Telephony Keeps Forging Ahead
Last March, we described in Skype for PPC: Free Phone Calls from a Windows Pocket PC? how to make free telephone calls using a PDA and Skype. In the meantime, Skype has introduced numerous enhancements to its offerings and has also grown its user base to exceed 3.1 million users (the day we translated this story into English, eBay announced its intentions to acquire Skype in a deal worth up to $4.1 billion). That history and Skype's 46% share of the IP telephony service market also help to explain why Intel formed a partnership with Skype, which Intel Senior Vice President Pat Gelsinger formally acknowledged last month.
Without exception, the most important of the new offerings that Skype has rolled out since the start of 2005 is its reasonably priced SkypeIn service. Skype users can now field calls from non-Skypers' land lines and mobile phones (use SkypeOut to go the other way, and call from a Skype phone to a non-Skype phone). Using these services is incredibly simple: order a Skype number from www.skype.com , set up an account for billing then start dialing. The otherwise free Skype Voicemail inbox also works with SkypeIn, too. That keeps Skype users accessible, even if they can't get to a phone as incoming calls arrive. This also makes Skype a full-fledged phone service offering, albeit one that's grown up quietly and secretly into a serious business tool.
But turning a service like Skype into something an average phone user can accept also means handsets must look and act like ordinary telephones - and they must be widely available.
For this short review we picked the IP-700m USB World Phone from IPFones as our handset of choice, because it has the same look and feel as a conventional wired telephone. At a price of about $80 (40 €), it's also very affordable. In the pages that follow, you'll see exactly how easy it is to put IP telephony to work on your notebook or desktop PC Compare Prices on IP-700 M.