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Skype phones sans the PC

New cordless phones let users of the Internet phone service make calls without a computer.

Skype on Thursday announced new cordless phones that will let users of its Internet phone service make calls without a computer or Wi-Fi connection.

The new Phillips VoIP841 and Netgear cordless phones plug into a broadband connection and come preloaded with Skype software, allowing users to make and receive phone calls without requiring them to have a computer turned on.

Skype, which is owned by eBay, is essentially a software application that turns broadband connections into phone lines. Users have traditionally downloaded the Skype software onto laptops and PCs, then used headsets and microphones to make calls from their computers over the Internet.

In the past 18 months, Skype has expanded its service to appeal more to the mass market. It introduced the SkypeIn and SkypeOut services that allow calls to be made to and received from cell phones and regular landlines for a fee. And with its partners it has introduced special Skype handsets that plug in to PCs, Wi-Fi phones that connect users to the Skype service through a wireless broadband connection, and several other products that enable users to connect to the Skype service.

Thursday's announcement takes this strategy a step further.

"Skype has already introduced Wi-Fi phones and Skype for PocketPC wireless," Stefan Oberg, general manager, desktop and hardware at Skype, said in a statement. "Now Skype is taking the next step to introduce PC-free cordless phones. The cordless phones for Skype launched today give Skype users the flexibility to enjoy free Skype-to-Skype calls and inexpensive calls to ordinary and mobile phones anywhere in the house, at any time without a running computer."

The cordless phone makes the Skype service act just like a traditional phone, but the company insists it is not a traditional phone replacement, as other services such as Vonage which also sends calls over the Internet, have claimed. The main reason is that Skype does not offer emergency calling or enhanced 911 service.

The Philips and Netgear cordless phones have full color graphic displays, an integrated contact list and a speakerphone. The Philips VoIP841 cordless phone is on display this week at the Internationale Funkausstellung, a consumer electronics show in Berlin. It will be available to consumers during the holiday season for around $150.