Packet8 Videophone update

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
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Packet8 Videophone update

I have some more info about the new Packet8 videophone I wrote about earlier today. I met with Packet8 and asked them about this new product. In my previous post, I stated I heard it will support H.263 -- in fact, it will actually support the better H.264 standard. It will indeed be much smaller than the current Packet8 videophone. In fact, it was designed to be portable so you can take it anywhere. The new videophone is actually more like an ATA (analog telephony adaptor) with a video screen and camera added on top.

Thus, unlike the current Packet8 videophone which doesn't allow you to hook up your home analog cordless phone, this new Packet8 videophone does. It's worth mentioning that one of my knocks against the original Packet8 videophone was that it uses a corded handset attached to it, which forces you to be near the videophone for all calls - including non-video calls.

The new videophone's built in analog port solves this issue of being chained to the Packet8 device. Thus, for example, if you have a multiple cordless handset system, you can connect it to this hybrid ATA/videophone and be able to make/receive phone calls from anywhere in your home. As an aside, we need to come up with a new name for this new genre of ATA that combines the traditional ATA features along with a video LCD and videoconferencing capabilities. Video ATA? VATA?

What would be cool is if content providers can push video content to this video screen. Which reminds me that ViseonMedia, a subsidiary of Viseon, Inc. a provider of TV-quality content to their VisiFone Multimedia digital home telephone was supposed to send me a review unit. I've been hearing this product is largely vaporware, yet I have a press release from them stating they signed up the Fox News Channel and Discovery Networks, as part of a U.S. VisiFone consumer pilot that was slated for late 2005. I haven't heard much from them, so I'm going to have to look into that some more.

In any event, in my house I have a 5.8GHz Uniden TRU-8885-2 cordless multi-handset (up to 10) phone system that would work perfectly with this new Packet8 videophone/ATA. DECT 6.0 cordless phone systems are also a perfect fit for this hybrid ATA/videophone.

This device will also feature a jog-wheel similar to an iPod for navigating the menu screens. To make the device as small as possible, their is no number dial-pad on the unit, so the jog-wheel will probably be used for initiating calls as well.

I asked them if the device was wired, wireless, or both. They were hesitant at first to tell me, but being the dogged reported that I am, I pressed them further and they admitted that it will be both wired and wireless. So in theory, you can walk around your house while carrying on a video conversation. Actually, not exactly true, since you would need a battery pack in the unit to power the LCD, camera, and voltage on the analog port. I actually suggested that as a "room for improvement" feature.

What I forgot to ask Packet8 (8X8) was if they plan to allow this hybrid ATA/videophone to work with any ITSP (SunRocket, Vonage, etc.) or if it must exclusively work with Packet8. I would think they could make some revenue selling this device -- even if to their ITSP competitors. Though they may see this video ATA device as a huge value-add feature to their VoIP service and hope to capture more VoIP subscribers as a result.

Packet8 promised me a photo (soon) and a review unit as soon as they get some units in. Stay tuned...


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