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February 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 2
Publishers Outlook

Comcast 2.0

In December of 2004 I wrote an article titled VoIP 2.0 (http://www.tmcnet.com/1451.1) in Internet Telephony (News - Alert) Magazine which focused in part on next-gen devices VoIP service providers need to differentiate themselves. As VoIP becomes commoditized, many providers will copy the iPod model from Apple. Providers need a killer WiFi (News - Alert) VoIP phone that lets you talk for an unlimited amount of time and supports conferencing, IM, speakerphone, Bluetooth, etc.

I’m now happy to say that I have found the company who has come up with the killer VoIP device. It is Comcast (News - Alert) (http://www.tmcnet.com/1452.1), a cable company now ranked 4th in the U.S. in terms of providing phone service. Comcast has also released what they call an Enhanced Cordless Phone which is in a trial at the moment and will be rolled out in 2008. While WiFi was all the rage when I wrote my article a few years back, DECT (News - Alert) is cheaper and less power-hungry and powers this new device.




This phone does exactly what I thought such a phone should do. It syncs with your online address book. It allows you to view and answer email. It lets you see your voicemails and listen to them in any order you choose. In other words the phone is much more like an iPhone (News - Alert) or Simulscribe-enabled device (http://www.tmcnet.com/1453.1) than a traditional phone.

Cathy Avgiris, SVP and GM of the Comcast Voice Services Group, called me from CES (News - Alert) in Las Vegas and beamed with enthusiasm over the phone as she told me that the next version of this product will be more PDA-like. Comcast will also be partnering with other phone makers besides their current manufacturer, Vtech.

Google (News - Alert), eat your heart out — the good news about this cordless phone is not over. It does search. It allows you to search for generic items in a geographic area... For example, pizza near your Zip code. It allows you to then call the resulting company(ies) or, if you prefer, save them to your address book for that big game on the weekend.

Avgiris consistently reminded me that her company is looking to reshape the way consumers think about cell phone service and they are absolutely doing so. Many companies I speak with talk a big game but launching a new consumer electronics gadget is exactly the way to gain share in the IP communications service market and Comcast should be commended for their efforts. This phone is just so sticky... It will be difficult for customers to switch carriers once they get hooked.

I truly believe this new phone is the baseline for all VoIP carriers. To learn more about “Phone 2.0” options, be sure to see Tom Keating’s (News - Alert) blog post (http://www.tmcnet.com/1455.1) on the matter.

In case you are curious, the company who makes the web software powering this phone is based in Silicon Valley and is named Casabi (News - Alert) (http://www.casabi.com).

Comcast is also up to other things such as soon to be providing universal Caller-ID service. For example while Cablevision has Caller-ID (http://www.tmcnet.com/1454.1) which displays on the phone and TV, Comcast is looking to one-up others by also making Caller-ID information available on the computer screen. This will likely be accessible via the company’s SmartZone Communications Center which is said to be very powerful and should behave a lot like Microsoft (News - Alert) Outlook.

Comcast worked with Plaxo to develop the SmartZone address book and one-click entry for new contacts.

Honestly, if I identify a need in the market and, a few years later, a company comes along and actually fulfills this need, I’ll be happy and write good things. Comcast has done an excellent job by marrying their service with consumer electronics. This is very smart and while the first generation Vtech phone is not going to be confused with an iPhone, it is just a matter of time before the form factor improves.

I am extremely enthused by all the things I am hearing from Comcast in the world of communications and they should be commended for their efforts. IT

» Internet Telephony Magazine Table of Contents



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