Skype comes of age

[intro]Philips' new PC-less Skype & DECT handset is the future of the home phone. Fact.[/intro] I've always struggled to get excited about Voice-ove

I've always struggled to get excited about Voice-over-IP. Yes, services like Skype offer cheap (or even free) international calls. But they also involve booting up the PC, logging in and hoping that your fellow Skype users are logged in, putting on a headset... a lot more complicated than picking up a standard phone.

But all that's about to change, because Philips has unleashed the VOIP841, a cordless telephone that works with your landline, but also has Skype built in.

It's not the first Skype handset - Netgear have one that'll work at any Wi-Fi hotspot, for example. But it's the first one I've used that effortlessly combines landline DECT and Skype.

For a start, it's really easy too set up. You don't need to switch your computer on - in fact, you don't need a computer at all, or a Skype account. You do, however, need broadband - plug the base station into your internet connection and phoneline and you're ready to go. The handset gives you the option of signing into an existing Skype account or setting up one from scratch.

Once you're signed in, the phone works just like a normal DECT - except it'll ring when you have Skype calls as well as when you have a call on your landline.

Making calls is simple, too - enter a number and hit dial and you have the option of using your landline or making a SkypeOut call. SkypeOut is the service that allows you to call from Skype to a normal landline or mobile phone, and it works out pretty cheap if you're calling abroad but is less useful for local calls.

But the killer app here is calling other Skype users - arm your network of family and friends with one of these handsets and all your calls will be free. You'll also get a list of all your contacts, and their status, whenever you turn the phone on. Which finally makes Skype simpler to use than most home phones.