Philips and Ingram team for dual mode phones

Consumer electronics group Philips has launched two dual-mode (both PSTN and VoIP capable) cordless phones. Both will be exclusively distributed by Ingram Micro.

The new handsets, one to be co-branded with VoIP provider Skype (Philips VOIP321) and the other with Windows Live Messenger (Philips VOIP433), will be marketed to the rapidly growing user bases of Skype's Voice-over-IP network and Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger service.

Users of the Philips VOIP321 Skype dual phone can make and receive digital voice quality (DECT) calls via the standard PSTN network. They can also make free VoIP calls to online contacts subscribed to the Skype service.

The VoIP321 also allows users to make Skype-Out calls (discount VoIP calls to landline and mobile phone numbers via pre-paid credit). Any consumers purchasing the Skype-branded phone before Christmas will be offered 60 minutes of Skype-Out credit free.

Users of the Philips VoIP433 Windows Live Messenger dual phone can make or receive standard PSTN calls. They can also make free VoIP calls to online contacts subscribed to Windows Live Messenger.

The phones come bundled with base stations that connect to the USB port of a computer, to an external phone line, and to a power point. As long as the user's PC remains on, users can make free calls to any contact logged in to their Skype or Messenger accounts from anywhere in their premises.

The phones take the presence technology of the Internet to a handset that has a sleek look and feel suitable for use in the home. Both provide a dynamic user status display which emulates the look and feel of the online experience - the Skype model being back-lit, the Windows model being in full colour. Both phones also feature speakerphone functionality.

Skype has 120 million subscribers worldwide, while MSN Messenger boasts 240 million.

Director of communications products at Ingram Micro, Mark Franklin, expected the new phones to shake up the cordless handset market.

There are currently more than two million PSTN cordless handsets in the market - a user base that is growing by more than 5 per cent annually.

Ingram Micro is providing resellers with CD-ROM training packages for the devices and point of sale marketing materials, but Franklin said the products would just about sell out of the box.

"The training doesn't need to be complicated as the products function in the same way as a standard phone," he said.