Microsoft has a lot riding on Live Messenger. Originally, Messenger was the champion of web-based chatter. Now, thanks to the success of VoIP, Microsoft needs to get back to the top of the pile.
Hence the Philips VoIP 433 Duo phones, the first of what's sure to be a slew of hardware tieins with Live. This pair of DECT phones offer dual functionality, connecting to a conventional telephone point for landline, and to a PC via USB for Live Messenger VoIP calls.
On startup, the Duo 433 handset displays your Live Messenger contacts on its colour LCD screen. You need to sign up for Verizon's Web Calling service to make VoIP calls, but once you're in, calls to Live contacts are free.
Though this is limited to Live users only, you can call any standard landline in Europe or the US for .012p per minute. Although this seems decent enough value, SkypeOut offers the same calls for 0.011p per minute.
The handsets have a sleek silver and black finish. Call quality is clear and reception strong, and while it does take a little longer for a dial-tone to kick in for VoIP calling, the phones remain very easy to use.
The handsets also have speaker-phone capabilities, caller ID, and an address book that can store up to 20 contacts in the handset and 100 in the base unit. Philips is to release a Skypebranded set in forthcoming months, which will be cheaper both to buy and cheaper to talk to your friends on, too.
Although these aren't the best value VoIP handsets available, they're definitely among the most stylish. It's just a shame they're Microsoft-only. Tom Dennis