By James Wells

BERLIN: Philips has launched the world’s first DECT phone for Skype that offers consumers voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone calls without a personal computer being switched on.

Launched at the IFA consumer electronics exhibition in Berlin this week, the VOIP841 (€199) has been specifically designed for Skype users and distance callers looking to take advantage of cost savings from internet telephony.

The launch of this new product follows the release two Philips VoIP phones to the Australian market last month through its local distribution partner, Ingram Micro.

The VoIP 433 (RRP $159 for one handset and $229 for twin handsets) allows users to make or receive free calls to their network of friends via Windows new Live Messenger software – the successor of MSN Messenger, which boasts more than 250 million active accounts worldwide.

The VoIP 321 (RRP $129 for one handset or $199 for two handsets) does essentially the same thing except its VoIP function utilises the hugely popular Skype software client, with free worldwide calls Skype to Skype.

The Skype brand, which was purchased late last year by Ebay for $US2.6 billion, is the third biggest global brand in the world  behind Google and Apple according to a respected Interbrand survey with over 113 million users.

Philips claims that VoIP represented 48 billion minutes or 16 per cent of the overall telephony market in Europe last year. By 2009, Philips estimates the VoIP market will represent over 20 per cent of the global telephony market and by 2008 in the United States, up to 20 million homes will use VoIP.

At IFA this week, Philips also released the VOIP080 (RRP €29) which features a wired USB connection to a PC which is designed specifically for travelers. The unique selling point of the product is a roll up cable management system enabling the USB cable to be wrapped around the phone.

Philips is also looking to position itself as a market leader in the VoIP handset market based on high quality reception and conversation clarity against brands in the market such as Linksys.

“There is enormous potential in the global market for VoIP handsets and Philips is committed to gaining a leadership position by providing an attractive and innovative product range,” Philips Consumer Electronics senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Lucas Covers said in Berlin this week.

"These latest introductions demonstrate how Philips is giving consumers maximum choice of how, when and where they make telephone calls and enjoy the cost savings and performance advantages that VoIP offers.”