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New takes on VOIP

PHOENIX--The first group of presenters on Wednesday morning are all VoIP players. Chris Shipley correctly points out that the real promise with VoIP, or voice over Internet Protocol, is not lower prices; it's the additional services that VoIP can provide.

First up is My People, a consumer VoIP company that wants to compete with Vonage. It replaces the dial tone with a "smart tone" that listens to you--you can simply speak a name or number into the phone.

The system can also send you reminders and wake-up calls. And if you call your My People account from your cell phone, you can use it to route your international calls through it at low VoIP rates.

There are other useful features, too. The service is $25 a month. The challenge for the company will be educating the consumer base and competing with Vonage. Making a deal with an existing carrier would be a wise move.

Eqo Communications brings users' Skype buddy lists to the cell phones. The service "extends online communities to mobile phones." It's an application that installs on your cell phone, so even when you're not at your computer, you can stay in touch with your Skype buddies. Eqo uses Skype Out and Skype In for routing calls; the phone application appears to just send commands to the Skype network. Look out for a full report from CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman.

Finally, ZinkKat is building the "Chile" communications appliance for teenagers. It's a wearable device that can act as a push-to-talk phone to other ZinkKat devices, and it also plays MP3s, Podcasts and Internet radio. In addition, it enables the voice control of actions such as buying concert tickets.

The device is essentially a wireless, voice-controlled terminal to a PC, so it requires an adapter connected to the PC. It's a clever idea for teenagers that never leave the house and are PC-centric. In other words, I don't get it.