As well as sounding better than SkypeOut, SymPhone is a much higher-function phone with groupware capability under a hosted-PBX scheme, and, Schwartz tells me, enterprise-grade security componentsincluding session border controllers from Acme Packetto prevent hacking. (At this writing, too, SkypeOut only gateways outit cant receive calls from PSTN phones.) The not-so-new wrinkles to Ecuitys announcement are that its part of a larger hosted PBX offering, with many virtual PBX features common to many of the VOIP service provider startups, such as Nuvio, Packet8 and M5.Like them, of course, Ecuitys platform gateways calls off the network to any phone in the world, in this case through resale arrangements with Level3 and Global Crossing. A little more off the beaten path, it offers users the ability to click to dial out of their Outlook contact databases; all part of the Web-driven subscriber setup.The virtual PBX service wouldnt be worth much if it only linked up chatty Pocket PCs. SymPhone also can be run from laptops over both wired and wireless LANs, using microphone and headsets. Equally important, Ecuity can support a mixed Centrex environment in which traditional phones are SIPified through a terminal adapter. Or include sites equipped with IP phones. As a traditional telephone company, it can even combine traditional PSTN Centrex services with V-Tone Office PBX. As its competitors do, Ecuity maps the SIP address of a SymPhone endpoint to a traditional DID (direct inward dialing) phone number. Subscribers can choose this number from a great range of fashionable and/or convenient area codes, without regard to actual physical location. Anyone from the outside PSTN world who dials that number hits Ecuitys Coppercom softswitch, equipped with PSTN-to-VOIP gateway. The softswitch then routes the call to the proper VOIP endpoint, complete with Caller ID, call waiting and the usual PBX functions such as call transfer, forward and conferencing. It also performs the intracompany, PBX-style, four-digit switching between "extensions" of the same Centrex account. Even if one is in Russia and two are in New Jerseyand the rest are anywhere else on a broadband connection. A Pocket PC/IP phone or a laptop would certainly be a great thing to take abroad, where cellular roaming charges might really rocket. Next Page: Please straighten out your branding.