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New line of Net phones

A new beta version of Intel's Internet Phone is available for download from the company's Web site.

Intel (INTEL) today announced a new beta version of its Internet Phone.

The new beta software is available immediately as a free download from Intel's Web site. The number of downloads of the phone have already totaled over 200,000, Intel said.

The new version includes enhancements such as busy-line and call-progress indicators. Also, the size of the Internet Phone file has been reduced by one-third, lessening the download time, Intel said.

The version also supports Internet Directory Services, including InfoSpace, to locate other Internet phone users. These directory services provide a way to find and call other Internet phone users.

Before the end of each beta phase, Intel intends to have a new version of the Intel Internet Phone available for download. Intel is encouraging all current users to download the new beta version from its Web site before the end of the first beta program on September 30, the company said.

Key features and capabilities of the Intel Internet Phone software include:

--the ability to communicate with any Internet communications product and software based on the H.323 standard.

--easy installation as an add-on applet compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator browsers.

--support from leading Internet directory services, such as BigFoot, Four11, InfoSpace, Internet Address Finder, Switchboard.Com, and WhoWhere, making it easy to find and call other users of H.323-based Internet Phones.

--a graphical interface designed to complement the point-and-click characteristics of popular browsers.

--full-duplex audio support, making it possible to support "natural" telephone-like conversations.

There are some outstanding issues with the phone, however. For one thing, it doesn't work with 486 processors, not even fast ones like the 100-MHz DX4 processor. And users will likely get less-than-acceptable performance with even a 75-MHz Pentium processor.

Also, the phone does not operate properly with Cyrix processors, such as its Pentium-class 6X86 chips, nor does it work with Windows NT or Windows 3.x.