Dual Stack SIP and Skype IP Phone Coming

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Randy Savicky
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Dual Stack SIP and Skype IP Phone Coming

Image is of the IPEVO Solo Desktop Skype phone not the forthcoming product. But picture something like this device that supports SIP, Skype, and has a color LCD

A source has told me about an interesting new VoIP/Skype product that is coming to market in Q3 2009. It's your typical desktop IP phone supporting the standard SIP stack, however it has an interesting twist - it also supports the Skype protocol.

The product is a dual-stack desktop phone supporting both the SIP and Skype protocols. Picture a Cisco, Polycom, or Aastra SIP-based phone that also supports Skype! Essentially, each desktop IP phone becomes a Skype endpoint with the ability to receive Skype calls to the Skype username (i.e. tomkeating) or the SkypeIn number (i.e. 212-555-1000).

My first thought when I heard about this product is why would you want Skype installed on the desktop phone endpoints? Why not just use one of the several Skype appliance or software gateways out there (Actiontec/VoSKY, Callfree, SimplyExchange, SkyStone, Skype for Asterisk), which gives you centralized administration of the Skype accounts and can interface with any SIP-based IP-PBX for Skype-based trunking (outbound & inbound dialing). The manufacturer of this device says their phone is more cost-effective than a Skype appliance since it's simply a software load on an existing IP telephone. Further, you can slowly add additional SIP/Skype-enabled phones as your business grows or as needed. They'll also sell a SIP-only IP phone that can later be upgraded to also support Skype via a license key.

Additionally, he pointed out that many employees telecommute with a remote IP phone, but also use Skype with a PC headset to stay in touch with business associates and friends. Using their IP phone you don't need to purchase a headset since you can use the IP phone handset instead to answer or make Skype calls. Also, no need to worry about running Skype or missing a call if you reboot your PC.

One major consideration is that Skype is very CPU intensive requiring a hefty processor, which obviously adds to the cost. My source tells me that they have done some extensive benchmarks to ensure the voice quality is good and are in the final stages of deciding between two well-known processor chips.

He explained the phones can be programmed via its web interface such that a certain prefix goes through SkypeOut, (i.e. '8') while other calls by default are routed to the SIP-based IP-PBX. I mentioned the difficulty of dialing Skype usernames using just a numeric keypad and he stated they are considering adding a full alphanumeric keypad to the phone, but it would increase manufacturing costs. They are strongly considering a "lite" (standard numeric pad) and a "pro" version (full alphanumeric keyboard). Both phone models will have a color LCD but they haven't finalized the dimensions yet.

He said the phone's web interface will have some rudimentary call history and a contacts database of your Skype buddies and imported contacts. You will be able to click on a contact hyperlink and initiate a Skype or SIP-based call.

He claims the IP phone will be price comparable to Polycom and Aastra IP phones. My only thought now is why hasn't someone thought of a dual-stack SIP Skype desktop IP phone before? Come to think of it, I've thought of this idea many times over the years, but figured only tech-savvy VoIP geeks would want such a desktop phone. But with the cost-saving potential such a phone would bring, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few dual-stack SIP Skype IP phones come to market in the next year.


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