While the unwired world has been buzzing about Apple’s putative mobile-phone-cum-music-player, the busy elves in Santa’s workshop have been getting the Linksys iPhones ready for Christmas delivery.
You read that right — iPhone. Cisco/Linksys has owned the trademark on that name since its 1999 acquisition of InfoGear. While it may not be as sexy as the mythic Apple iPhone, the Linksys iPhone is here now, and delivers very useful features at down-to-earth prices.
Today Linksys announced two new members of the iPhone family: the CIT400 dual-mode cordless Skype-IP phone and the WIP320 Skype WiFi phone. The new devices join the CIT200 and CIT300 Skype phones, the CIT310 Yahoo Messenger phone, and the WIP300 WiFi and WIP330 WiFi phone with Web browser.
Linksys’ vision of the iPhone is a device that connects to the Internet to deliver many services to people – talk being only one of them.
With the launch of the CIT310 last fall, Linksys demonstrated how IT services like weather and phone number lookups could be delivered to handsets. The CIT400, which is expected to retail for about $180, extends that feature set.
The most significant advance of the CIT400 is that it takes the PC out of the equation, delivering IP services directly from the network to the handset. The phone is SIP-based to make it a platform for converging many IP services together through the one device.
“It follows the form-function of a cordless phone,” says Dennis Vogel, Sr. Manager Product Marketing, Linksys Consumer Business Unit. “It integrates all features. It’s a superset of existing cordless phone [functions] and a subset of PC applications. One of the first is presence. That’s a very simple way of enhancing what’s available today.”
The CIT400 is a full-featured cordless phone, with familiar features like call waiting, caller ID, and speakerphone. The base station has both LAN and landline connections, enabling both VoIP and traditional calls; you can choose the calling mode for each call or set it as a default. The unit supports SkypeIn, SkypeOut, Skype Voicemail and displays Skype contact lists and presence on the handset’s color screen.
The WIP320 is a “candy bar” phone, similar to the WIP300. Unlike the WIP300 and 330 which are SIP-based, the WIP320 is exclusively a Skype phone. It will retail for around $200.
The device works with 802.11b/g wireless networks — again, no PC required. It supports SkypeOut, SkypeIn, Skype Voicemail and displays Skype contact lists and presence on the color screen. What’s more, the WIP320 has a handy push-button WiFi finder that operates without booting the phone up. “That’s key when you’re roaming,” adds Vogel.
Long-term, Linksys aims to make its iPhones the heart of the connected home.
“Phones in the home and cordless phones have been [built on] the same model for a long time,” Vogel says. “Being a networking company, we have a lot of insight into what you can do with IP that you could never do with an analog phone. It’s a new look at ‘what is a telephone?'”
Today we think of the Interent as a destination. Tomorrow it will become an embedded connection, like the PSTN.
“I can get a webcam and create video on the computer,” he continues. “I can get a SIP phone and make phone calls. When you combine those things you have something more interesting than a phone or a camera. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
In the next year Linksys expects to deliver on that vision with features like home IP-PBX that routes calls to individual handsets, each of which behave like a private phone line; multiple simultaneous calls on the same line; and a push-to-talk home PA system to save Mom’s voice when calling the gang for supper.
Further out, there’s “no limit” to the possibilities, Vogel says. “You’ll be able to access content regardless of what it is. You’ll have caller ID on the TV set, you’ll use the phone to access media stored in many places and connect to home monitoring systems. We’ll lose the concept of ‘telephone.'”