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The "iPhone" is out this week.... from Cisco?

So the news floating around the VoIP part of the blogosphere is that the long-awaited and long-debated "iPhone" was released yesterday... but it turns out NOT to be from Apple! Instead, as noted by Gizmodo, the trademark for "iPhone" belongs to, of all people, Cisco! ( Tip of the hat to Tom Keating, where I first read it and saw this graphic.)

On one level, the Linksys press release seems to be mostly a re-branding exercise for their existing "CIT" Cordless Internet Telephone series but as noted over on the Skype Gear blog, there actually is some real product news mixed in with all the fixation on the name.

The CIT400 is a DECT-based cordless phone that does not require a PC to run Skype. That apparently is the function of the grey box "base station" in the picture. You plug it into your network and your phone is off and running. It can apparently also plug into your landline to give you true "dual-mode" operation. Very much like the Dualphone 3088 and other similar products.

On the other hand, the WIP320 is a true WiFi handset that again does not require a PC. So it joins the other phones like Netgear SPH101 (which, interestingly, looks very similar) and the Belkin WiFi phone, both of which also don't need a PC to run Skype.

Now, while the WIP320 seems like it might be something nice for the home office (although I like the ergonomic of the Dualphones better, I have to confess), it doesn't strike me as being as useful (and disruptive) as it could be. Why not? Because you can't use it at hotspots that require authentication!

I took a quick scan at the User Guide, and while you can use it with WPA and WEP encryption, it doesn't have a web browser so you can't take it to a WiFi hotspot and authenticate with the hot spot provider. Obviously, if you take it somewhere where someone can just give you a WPA key, you're okay... but that's not the real world of public hotspots. Per Cisco's product family page, the web browser is only in their SIP handset, the WIP330. Perhaps next go-around they'll give that to Skype users.

All in all I would expect Cisco to get a lot of press out of the name "iPhone", if for no other reason than the fact that Apple can't use that name anymore. Beyond that, unless I'm really missing something, the announcement itself really just shows that Cisco/Linksys is now catching up with its competitors.

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