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Closing Thoughts

So now you have two ways to go for computer-free Skype calling. Pricing for both options looks like it will end up in the $150 - $160 range in the near term and it's anyone's guess as to where pricing will eventually end up. (As I write this, the SPH200D is available only through Amazon.com for $179.99, but is listed as "out of stock" at other etailers at prices ranging from $148 to $204.)

Business users with established Wi-Fi networks who use Skype to save on long-distance calling may opt for the Wi-Fi models, since they can move (although not seamlessly roam) among access points. And the ability to be taken on the road might also be attractive—as long as you can get access to an authentication-free hotspot, or use Belkin's phone on the Boingo network.

I think home-based users, however, will opt for the SPH200D and similar products because they are more like a product they know, i.e. a cordless phone and are much more of a plug-and-go product. The SPH200D doesn't need a Wi-Fi network to operate, but also won't interfere if one is already in use. It also offers the convenience of working with both a PSTN landline and Skype, supports handset-to-handset intercom and even conference calling features. And it can put in a full day of use like any other cordless phone with no worry of the battery going dead.

Netgear SPH200D handset

I can see this product (after being already set up, of course) being used by people who don't even know what Skype is—my parents for instance—where I'd never try that with a Wi-Fi Skype phone. (I wouldn't depend on this or any VoIP phone as the sole means of communication, and Netgear and Skype underline that point with multiple warnings—including one that comes up when you turn on the phone for the first time.)

Skype is putting a serious hurtin' on both PSTN long-distance and even VoIP providers and the SPH200D is just another brick in what is becoming a pretty formidable wall between those companies and any hopes of profitability from voice calling. I still wish these phones would support Skype text chat, however, and the SPH200D is no exception.

But the bigger obstacle to the phone becoming my main office phone is its inability to log landline calls and display caller ID information. Hopefully, Netgear will fix those bugs with a firmware update and join the Polycom Communicator as my everyday workhorse Skype gear.

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