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Netgear, Skype developing Wi-Fi phone

Hello? I'm in Starbucks

Skype users will be able to make calls from anywhere they can get a Wi-Fi internet connection when Netgear and the internet voice service provider begin selling a phone that Netgear will demonstrate at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas.

Phone manufacturers are lining up to supply hardware for fast-growing VoIP (voice over IP) services and applications at this year's CES. The Skype-Netgear partnership unveiled yesterday will deliver what the companies have said is the first Wi-Fi phone to deliver the full Skype experience. Skype and Vonage Holdings announced other partnerships on Tuesday.

Skype is a peer-to-peer internet telephony application that typically uses client software loaded on a PC. Talking with other Skype users worldwide is free, and calls to non-Skype users are available for a fee through the SkypeOut service. Netgear's phone will come with the Skype software pre-loaded, so all users need to start making calls is a Skype username and password, the companies said in a press release. The user's list of Skype contacts will come up automatically. Anywhere the user can get on the internet via Wi-Fi, including public hotspots, the user will be able to make calls, the firms said.

More information about the Netgear Skype phone, including pricing and availability dates, will be available in the next couple of months, according to the release.

The phone will be part of a family of products that the two companies are working on, they said. The companies are also working on a router equipped to optimise Skype calls.

Online auction giant eBay bought Skype last year. Netgear makes networking products for homes and small businesses.

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