Internet Telephony Shoot-Out: Skype vs. SIPphone

ExtremeTech's editors compare the two newest ways to call via the Internet: The SIPphone from Lindows' Michael Roberston vs. the Skype service from the developers of Kazaa.

There are few organizations more loathed than the telephone company. Lets face it – none of us like forking over our hard-earned cash every month just to use the phone. Well, how much would it be worth to you to be able to call your friends and family for free by using the Internet?

Granted, this is already possible via rudimentary VoIP (Voice over IP) services, but theyve been burdened by poor sound quality, dropped calls, and difficult interfaces. Now, two new entrants are poised – head-to-head – to dominate this burgeoning market. Interestingly enough, both come from developers with a successful track record in other arenas – including easy-to-use Linux, MP3s, and peer-to-peer networking.

The first, the new Skype service, has been created by the developers of the popular file-sharing system Kazaa. It uses Kazaas peer-to-peer technology, along with your PCs sound card, to create an easy-to-use, IM-style VoIP application thats fast and sounds good. Because its based on a proprietary protocol, however, it wont interoperate with other services.

The second service, the new SIPphone, comes from Michael Robertson, who founded and then gave us Lindows, the easy-to-use Linux OS variant, PC and software distribution system. Unlike Skype, the SIPphone is a stand-alone appliance – plug it into your broadband router and youre off. Because its based on the emerging SIP protocol – which stands for Session Initiation Protocol - the SIPphone can interoperate with other SIP devices.

Neither system can call out to standard POTS (plain old telephone service) lines. They do illustrate, however, just how far VOIP has come – its actually good enough to offer a viable alternative to existing phones.


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