Polycom, the audio and video-conferencing firm, is targeting business customers who use Internet telephony with its latest product, launched on Tuesday.
The Polycom Communicator is a portable speakerphone that connects to a PC via USB. It is certified by VoIP operator Skype.
Polycom Communicator will cost just under £100, including VAT, according to Glynn Jones, European vice-president of Polycom's voice business. He believes there is a large market for a device that can improve the experience of using VoIP while out of the office.
"We're looking to target businesses who use Skype," said Jones.
Internet telephony allows users to avoid high call charges when phoning foreign countries, or when phoning home from abroad. However, services such as Skype do not offer a guaranteed service quality as the data packets travel over the public Internet.
Polycom claims that the Communicator will offer a better experience than using a standard microphone or headset. It has two microphones and its own echo cancellation function in the USB driver; in use, it disables Skype's own echo cancellation. Powered through the USB lead, the device has a higher frequency response than Skype's maximum -- 22kHz as oppposed to 16kHz -- and when not in use for communication, Polycom says it can be used to play music and audio from the connected PC.
Although no product is yet available for testing, ZDNet UK did see a unit working in a demonstration managed by Polycom.
Alistair Shrimpton, UK country manager for Skype, argued that Skype was already a business tool.
"We estimate that around 30 percent of our 94 million registered users are using Skype in a business environment," said Shrimpton.
Shrimpton said that product certification was an important part of Skype's drive to bolster its reputation for service quality.
"We don't manufacture products, so by certifying a product we're trying to ensure that bad products don't cause a bad customer experience," said Shrimpton, who added that poor broadband connections were usually the cause of bad experiences with Skype.
The Polycom Communicator