Friday, January 23, 2009

Verizon pushes cell - landline convergence

Next month, Verizon Wireless plans to release a new, land-based phone that claims to integrate seamlessly with their cellular network. The phone is VoIP device which uses the customer's existing internet service for access. While they say they don't intend to compete with Vonage and Comcast internet phone service, the package is aimed squarely at the market segment that would consider switching from traditional phone service to one of those products.

The package consists of a very expensive phone ($199, after rebate) and a monthly service plan ($34.99). "Phone" is probably a misnomer, though... at least as much as "cell phone" is a misnomer for the BlackBerry that's strapped to my waist. The device incorporates a 7" screen which allows the user to access a limited number of web-based applications, such as news, sports, and traffic information. It's also where users can manage their calendars and send and receive text messages from Verizon Wireless phones.Take a look at this picture:

And this is the primary advantage that the device offers over Vonage and Comcast. I can use a softphone client on my PC over my existing Comcast internet access, thereby combining all the advantages of a phone and a PC. But it requires that I fire up my machine whenever I want to make a call. The Verizon device is "always on" and always connected. It really becomes a much more convenient PC that is relatively unobtrusive. It's a PC you can fit in your kitchen, for instance.

There are distinct disadvantages with respect to Vonage & Comcast. Cost being the most prominent. But I suspect that's a temporary state of affairs. I would bet on Dell or Apple coming out with a competing device that's, at least in the case of Dell, more favorably priced. Keep an eye on this. It should be very interesting.

Read more at C-Net: Verizon Wireless launches new product

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