Tuesday, October 31, 2006

skype's limit

THE local distributor of Skype wifi phones was red-faced last weekend after the model units it was showing to trade buyers at the COMMDAP expo in The Fort failed to connect to each other.

The SMCWSK P100 phone is supposed to make Internet telephony much easier than what Skype now provides through the personal computer, but somehow the COMMDAP organizers failed to install wifi connection to the booth of Skype distributor, MSI-ECS, to make the wifi phones work.

Despite the technical glitch, MSI-ECS has already convinced the Octagon computer store chain to carry the SMCWSK P100, at a suggested retail price of P14,900 (savvy buyers can get the same unit for as low as $170 overseas.)

The advantage of the Skype wifi phone is that it not only frees the user from being tethered to the computer or laptop, it can also be pocketed and brought overseas as a secondary phone.

The unit is designed to instantly detect and connect to unsecured wifi hotspots just like a laptop, but without being weighed down by the laptop.

While it does provide free overseas phone calls to fellow Skype users, the wifi phone, just like a PC-originated overseas phone call, will still cost the Philippine caller to a non-Skype phone a hefty 0.232 euro (inclusive of value-added tax) a minute.

That rate compares with what Sun Cellular now charges, 20 US cents a minute (plus value-added tax), but still about half what Globe Telecom and Smart Communications both inflict, a painful 40 US cents a minute.

Still, the Skype wifi phone will easily pay for itself for frequent travelers and business callers.

According to the Skype rate card, calls originating in Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States, or even in Europe and all connecting to the Philippines should cost as little as 2 US cents.

If you think it is wonderful, wait until you get your hands on a combination wifi cellphone (Nokia and Samsung have gone out ahead with their initial models), now being unrolled by T-Mobile in Seattle.

Aside from making cheap VoIP calls, the wifi cellphone enables weakened and out-of-range wifi calls to seamlessly switch to cellphone calls using the same mobile phone.

Manila Pen upgrades Benz

THE Peninsula Manila Hotel will get eight Mercedes-Benz S350s to replace its aging S320 limo fleet.

According to the grapevine, the eight long-wheel-base Benzes will be delivered by mid-November, after having been specially painted in regulatory Peninsula green (technically, the color is known as brewster green) in the Maybach factory in Germany.

The new Pen fleet is actually part of the 10 S350s acquired by the now anachronistically named Nissan Car Leasing, which will maintain and lease the Benzes to the luxury hotel.

With the retirement of its 10-year-old S320s, the Pen has decided to simply outsource the limo service to a third-party provider, as Mandarin and Shangri-La have done.

According to the grapevine, the Pen had considered acquiring a number of BMW 7s as well, but was told by its Hong Kong headquarters to stick to Mercs, the three-pointed stars being the standard limo of choice of Peninsula hotels worldwide.

The S350 has a list price of slightly more than P8 million, and the fleet purchase has already given the local Benz dealer, CATS Motors, an P80-million windfall.

To underscore the importance of the Peninsula purchase, the Mercedes-Benz regional bosses in Singapore are even flying in for the delivery and hand over.

sources: INQ7


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