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Netgear's Wi-Fi phone cuts the cord for Skype fans

Netgear's Wi-Fi phone cuts the cord for Skype fans

VoIP service lets you make free phone calls around the globe, but it usually forces you to sit close to a PC and wear a clunky headset. Netgear and eBay-owned Skype hope to change that by releasing a Wi-Fi phone that makes calls without a computer. This shiny white handset comes with Skype software installed, aiming to make setup simple: Just get within range of a Wi-Fi network, turn on the phone, and log on to your Skype account. SkypeOut customers can also ring non-VoIP users via their landlines or cell phones. Pricing is expected within the first quarter of this year, at shipping time.

But if you're already irate when your cell phone calls drop out, expect more pain trying to talk via VoIP on a flaky Wi-Fi network. Thus, Netgear is pitching its RangeMax WPN824 Wireless Router as the latest gadget to eliminate Wi-Fi dead zones and interference.

Several other handsets join the flurry of Skype-related releases at CES this week. However, the Netgear model doesn't add extra monthly fees to the phone service. eBay-Skype is also announcing a partnership with Kodak that allows Skype users to share photos, a tool that users of Yahoo Messenger with Voice already enjoy.