Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., which makes the Panasonic brand, has partnered with Net2Phone Inc. to develop a dual-mode telephone that lets users make calls over both traditional long-distance networks and the Internet, the companies announced today.
The Internet telephone is one of several expected to be demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show, which kicks off here this evening with a speech from Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates. Intel Corp. and Taiwan's Askey Computer Corp. also announced plans this week to show new Internet telephony devices at the four-day conference.
Using the Internet to make long-distance calls can help users slice a chunk off their phone bills, according to its proponents. Critics respond that the Internet isn't reliable enough to carry real-time voice calls, and users have been fairly slow to adopt the technology to date.
Matsushita will integrate Net2Phone's One Touch voice-over-IP service into future Panasonic consumer telephones, the companies said in a statement.
Consumers will need to register for the One Touch service through a short voice-mail interview. Flicking an "Internet switch" on their phone will then allow them to choose between calling over a traditional circuit-switched network or an IP (Internet protocol) network.
Matsushita claims its phones will be the first to offer the dual capability.
Details about pricing and availability weren't made available today.
Askey, meanwhile, will demonstrate its Askey Internet Phone. Askey officials claim that users will be able to hack as much as 95 percent off of their long-distance bills by using the device, which is expected to retail for about US$150, the company said.
Like other Internet phones, Askey's product doesn't require a PC to operate.
The user pushes a button on the phone to dial their Internet service provider, and the phone automatically exchanges IP addresses, Askey officials said in the statement. The company didn't say when it expects the phone to be available.
Separately, Intel Corp. today also said it will offer an Internet telephony appliance by mid-2000, the first in a family of Internet devices that the company will sell through ISPs, carriers and other service providers. [See "CES: Intel to Offer 'Net Appliances by Mid-Year," Jan. 5.]Based in Taipei, Askey can be contacted on the Web at http://www.askey.com/.
Matsushita, based in Osaka, Japan, can be reached on the Web at http://www.matsushita.co.jp/. Information about Panasonic products is at http://www.panasonic.com/. Net2Phone, in Hackensack, New Jersey, is on the Web at http://www.net2phone.com/.