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Closing Thoughts

I had been wondering what was taking so long for these Skype Wi-Fi phones to arrive, since, after all, they had been announced back in January at CES. But after spending some time with the WSKP100, I can see that the delay hasn't been solely due to the desire to synchronize the release with the holiday shopping season.

Apparently, it's not as easy as it may seem to cram even just the voice chat functions of Skype (and single party calling only at that) into a Wi-Fi based, pocket-sized package that's easy to use and doesn't run a battery down in a few hours. The good news is that it looks like it's, for the most part, possible. But in spite of all that it does, I don't think the WSKP100 and its siblings are going to fly off the shelves.

The main problem for business users is the phone's inability to authenticate with captive-portal hotspots, which pretty much rules it out as a road-warrior accessory. And besides, most business travelers need to tote their notebook anyway or have long-ago decided to rely on Blackberries, Treos or other devices that provide much more of what a traveling notebook-less professional needs.

So that leaves home-based users, high-schoolers and the college crowd. This group is going to think twice before plunking down $200 for what amounts to a cordless phone with short battery life, works only when the kids aren't sucking up all the Internet bandwidth with BitTorrent and depends on having clear 802.11b/g spectrum that gets harder to find every day.

No, I think a successful computer-less Skype device will have to do both voice and text and probably look more like a Danger Hiptop / T-Mobile Sidekick, or even an Ogo, but with voice added. But with no associated service plan to sell to keep the hardware price low, such a device would probably cost closer to $400, which pretty much kills that idea.

It's too bad, because the concept of a Skype Wi-Fi phone is so compelling. But like so many things in life, the realization - at least at this point - just doesn't match up to the anticipation.

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