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This ZDNet article quotes analyts at Infonetics Research about how slowly WiFi phones are being deployed. In the article, it states, "Despite suggestions that 2004 would see mass take-up of Wi-Fi phones, analysts are now saying said that it will be 2009 before they become economically viable for the market as a whole"

Hmmm, a pessimistic view of a VoIP niche? Oh no, trashing my beloved VoIP! Which way should I go? Do I dispute the analysts or agree with them?

Well, to be honest, I agree with them. I can tell you why WiFi phones haven't taken off. WiFi phones by themelves are very "niche". That is, if WiFi phones are only "1 trick wonders" with just WiFi voice capability and no cellular wireless, 3G, etc. then WiFi phones are basically just a cordless phone that works over your WiFi local area network. There's no real advantage of a WiFi phone as compared to your typical 2.4Ghz cordless phone. In fact, a 2.4Ghz phone usually has a better range than a WiFi phone. There is one advantage I suppose and that's that you can carry the WiFi phone around to WiFi hotspots and make VoIP calls inexpensively. But who wants to carry around another phone device? Especially when you consider most people get a bucket of cell phones minutes that they have to use up anyway - they're prepaid monthly. Now a combo WiFi device would be a different story. A Pocket PC/WiFi/WiMAX/3G cell phone and this would make much more sense. It's one device to carry for one. Now, if you happen to be in a WiFi hotspot, the cell phone will use WiFi. If you aren't near WiFi, maybe it defaults to 3G. I'm sure the future smartphones and hybrid devices will let you specify the network precedence order.

No, the "1 trick wonder" WiFi phone is dead.. In fact, one of the pioneers of WiFi phones was Symbol with their NetVision WiFi phone, which was discontinued. More proof that WiFi phones by themselves are indeed too niche in my opinion for widespread adoption.

But I do have a caveat. In corporate America, most people use their wired desktop phone and do not have a wireless solution to be able to roam around the office and receive calls to their extension. However, there are some executives and other types of employees that always want to stay in touch, so they use proprietary wireless solutions that integrate with their PBX. For example, Rich Tehrani has been using Comdial's Scout wireless phone for years - before VoIP even existed. For people like that, certainly it does make sense to have a standardized WiFi phone rather than a proprietary wireless solution. For one, WiFi phones are less expensive, and secondly, if you have an IP-PBX, you simply turn on the WiFi phone, get assigned an IP address via DHCP and voila' you have plug and play cordless/wireless VoIP!

So the one-trick pony WiFi phone does have its place - just a smaller niche that some prognosticators would like.

Eric Lagerway has some similar thoughts in his SIPThat blog you should check out

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