Vonage announced their oft-rumored USB "VoIP-on-a-stick" product today. Nothing new here, Mplat has a similar product called Mplat FlashPhone F2K that I wrote about
. Unlike the Vonage V-Phone which is limited to Vonage, the Mplat device not only comes standard with Skype software but it's also compatible with MSN, Google Talk, and other VoIP services. Prices for the Mplat device start at about $40 for the 128MB unit and $80 for the 512MB model. VoiceStick
also has their USB "VoIP-on-a-stick" product that has been out for awhile. It's unclear how much memory is on the USB-based V-Phone and if Vonage allows you to install third-party applications, like say Skype?
As Russell Shaw points out
, who is going to pay $40 just to make a VoIP call when you can just pick up the phone? Sure the $40 gives you a turnkey VoIP solution (embedded Vonage software) that you can simply install into someone else's PC and then be "good to go". But are you really "good to go"? Does this PC have a microphone or headset? Unlike the Mplat, I don't believe the V-Phone has a builit-in mic, but I'll have to confirm that.
Why a user wouldn't simply download and use the Vonage softphone client instead of paying $40 is beyond me. Although, you have to pay $9.99/month for 500 softphone minutes, but you do get the added benefit of gaining access to your SIP credentials for use in other SIP devices.
I wrote back in February
that a source informed me that Vonage would be opening up their SIP credentials
which would enable third-party softphone clients (and SIP ATAs) to connect to the Vonage service. This was supposed to happen at the end of 1Q, but that didn't happen. Instead Vonage launched their failed IPO
and now have their shareholders to answer to. They certainly aren't going to open their SIP credentials now (for free), since that would negate the need to pay $9.99/month for the softphone client and upset already irate Vonage shareholders
. Now that Vonage is a public company, I wonder if their first SEC filing will include a breakdown of not only the number of subscribers, but the number of paying softphone client users as well. They may have had to disclose that information already as part of the IPO process. I'll have to go look. But in summary, nothing to see here. Move along...