I'm now at the Consumer Electronics Show in "Lost Wages" - err, Las Vegas.
Lots of IP Telephony talk here. Among the hot topics is Vonage's announcement that they will be selling their own VoIP-enabled Wi-Fi phone for less than $100 starting this spring.
To me, the combined technology and the low price point puts IP Telephony and Wi-Fi into a first-ever confluence with mass market potential. Here are the profound impacts, as I see it:
1. Because this phone will be usable at Wi-Fi hot spots, it may benefit the Wi-Fi consumer by reducing their need to carry a cell along with their laptop or mobile device when they are accessing the Web and need to make phone calls.
2. Home users will be able to use the phone without plugging into a router. Routers and connections may be easy for some of us, but some folks I know are absolutely petrified when they even begin to contemplate contemplate the necessity of hooking up cables and devices into USB ports and routers they do not understand.
3. The low price point of this Wi-Fi VoIP phone will rope in the curious who have been holding out not due to fear of hooking up a router, but because they don't feel willing or able to spend money on other VoIP phones that cost multiples of Vonage's projected sales price.
4. The Vonage phone may have some effect on softphone solutions. I'm convinced that some users have selected softphone products because of router fear problems. The setup of this new phone takes the anxiety out.
I am, however, not convinced that the Vonage Wi-Fi/VoIP phone will make a serious dent in cell phone sales. Right now, with slightly less than one million Internet phone lines in use within the U.S., IP Tel is still somewhat in the early adopter stage. And of course, all those early adopters already have handsets.