Prowling VON

Jim Louderback wanders the halls of the Voice Over Network show and uncovers some cool new VOIP and broadband technologies.

This show rocks! I knew it was going to be a good show when I arrived at the Santa Clara convention center and the parking lot was full! I ended up in a lot across Great America Parkway—in one of the many abandoned dot-com office parks.

But if the VOIP market has anything to do with it, the valley will be humming again. This is one hot show. Weve got lots of at, but what follows are the pieces I found particularly interesting, amusing or just plain fun.

The big news: AT&T rolled out its big, big answer to Vonage, called CallVantage. At $40 a month for unlimited U.S. calling, its available now in Jersey and Texas (home respectively to big hair and big hats). Shortly after AT&T launched its service Monday, Vonage slapped them with a lawsuit, claiming the name (Vantage) was too close to its name (Vonage).

Theyve got a point. And the AT&T people were walking on pins and needles at the show. I wandered up to the booth to ask for a demo, and was told by the booth staff that they were unable to talk to me because I was press. Instead they directed me upstairs to a non-existent AT&T hospitality booth for the official spin. I nearly ripped the press tag off my badge, but luckily ran into the Death Star flack, who tugged me back to the booth and gave me a clean bill of health.

The demo was pretty impressive. Using a D-Link VOIP adapter—which you get for free with a one-year contract—the software looks clean and inviting. Im eagerly looking forward to our comparative review between CallVantage and Vonage.

/zimages/3/28571.gifFor more details, check out "AT&T Rolls Out Do-It-Yourself VOIP."

I also ran into my old friend Jeff Bonforte, former CEO of failed dot-com startup iDrive. Hes currently CEO of SipPhone, Michael Robertsons VOIP play. Jeff filled me full of cool facts about what SipPhone will launch over the next few weeks, and then swore me to secrecy. I cant give you details, but suffice to say that a comparison between Vonage, Vantage and SipPhone might be a pretty hot horse race.

Jeffs best story: Robertson, who took on the music industry with, and Microsoft with Lindows, is getting a similar reaction from telcos. "Well bury you," they claim, when Robertson extends the olive branch. Hmmm. This is the guy who had a hand in killing the music industry as we know it, and is taking Microsoft for a ride worldwide. I wouldnt bet against him! More on SipPhone in the weeks to come.

Next page: Bridging Wi-Fi and VOIP.