USB Phone Aims at Skype Users

Slender handset lets callers operate Skype features from the phone.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Sep 8, 2005
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Hawking Technologies, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., will shortly make available the latest in a growing number of IP-related telephony devices.

The Net-TalkTM Internet USB Phone HNT1, a handset that, as the name suggests, connects to a PC's USB port, is designed to be used with Internet-based VoIP services such as Skype, MSN Messenger, and Google-Talk. (See it here.) It should be available September 10, through retailers and other outlets, according to a company press release.

Basically an intelligent replacement for the headsets employed by many Skype users, Net-Talk adds value in the form of easy-to-install Net-Talk software, which allows users to access most of Skype's features from the handset interface.

According to Hawking's chief marketing manager, Jason Owen, "We thought most phone users are just more comfortable with this form factor [compared with the headset]. Plus, with the Skype service, you can control most of the Skype functions—speed dial, contact list, call logs—with the arrow pad on the handset."

But, Owen pointed out to VoIPplanet.com, it will work perfectly well with other Internet-based IM/VoIP services—just without the handset-based controls. "Net-Talk doesn't depend on what type of protocol is being used," he said. "It's essentially just a microphone and speaker that hook up to your USB port. It will work with any service that uses IM and has voice capabilities."

Hawking is also touting the Net-Talk as an aid in PC-based recording of audio material, though, again, the software needed for this is not part of the Net-Talk product.

In combination with a USB- and Wi-Fi-equipped laptop, the HNT1 makes it easy for Skype and other IM/VoIP application users to make inexpensive, on-the-go phone calls from hotspots, the company contends. They'll pay what the service (e.g., SkypeOut) costs, plus whatever connect charges apply at the hotspot, but won't be saddled with POTS long-distance charges.

Despite the September 10 release date mentioned on the press release, Owen told VoIPplanet that sample units are just going out to dealers now, which means it may be a few weeks before the Net-Talk is readily available. Street price is expected to be around $60.

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