So the other day I looked over at my boss's desk and saw three neat looking cordless phones sitting there in their boxes with big fat Yahoo! Ready logos on them, and thought, "Ooh cool! Some super-secret new prototype of some VoIP thing!" and of course asked if I could play with one of them. Well, it turns out that it isn't actually a super-secret product, but a phone that's actually shipping! It's the VTech USB7200, on sale now and it comes with software which allows you to make calls using the new Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. Prety neat!
It works a little differently than you might think though. It's not a WiFi phone (that would've been really cool), nor does it have a base station that plugs directly into an ethernet port either. The base station actually connects to your computer via a normal USB cable like any headset, in addition to a regular phone jack as well. It seems like any other handset for your PC, right? But first, it's cordless, so you can wander around your house or office, and second it's not a dumb handset - you actually can see a list of your Yahoo! IM contacts right on the phone and make/receive PC-to-PC calls (and use the normal phone line to make/receive local outside calls). SOOOO cool! Yeah, it'd be cooler if it attached directly to WiFi, but this is an interesting middle ground. And it makes the cost reasonable as well - $80 - that's almost as much as I paid for a cordless phone set over Christmas, so I think that's pretty good.
And yes, in case you don't use Yahoo! IM for voice stuff (yet), the same phone works with Skype and Vonage, though I haven't tested those out at all. Seriously, I can't imagine it's going to be very long before a phone like this is on every corporate desk out there. Everyone in Yahoo! should have one at the bare minimum, no? Though I'm sure we have some sort of industrial pbx or something, we're sitting on massive bandwidth and *everyone* uses Y!IM... I bet it'd save a ton of cash in calls. Yeah, you could do something similar with headsets... but having that handset in your hand, with a scrollable list of contacts really does make a difference. It *felt* like a phone.
The other thing I was playing with is the GizmoProject VoIP client again. The integrated SIP stuff is very cool. Mike and I were chatting (he on Linux and me on Windows) and we decided to play with the "record" feature and it worked great. One click and you're making a podcast. Then we dialed into a SIP conference center that's on the conference tab, invited Diego and instantly had a three way call with recording - and we could've added many more. It's very cool (especially for the price). The client also has these things called "blasts" which allow you to insert sounds into the conversation/recording - they have some samples like laughing and booing which makes it all that much more like you're on a radio show. Very amusing.
All in all it's very cool stuff. We need to get that sort of conferencing and recording stuff into Y! IM... it's just really compelling (who knows - it could be on a roadmap somewhere, I'm not on that team, so I don't know). I think all the IM and Voice guys like Skype should watch out for the GizmoProject. Yes it's a bit geeky to use now, but all they need is some marketing and I think it could do well. $500m well? That I'm not sure about, but you never know.