Om Malik breaks the news that Vonage will soon have laptop and PDA-based software client for its service: It's not news that Vonage has tens of thousands of subscribers, nor that they offer a high-quality, full-featured hardware-based broadband voice-over-IP service that allows you to map multiple incoming real phone numbers to your virtual line.
It also not news that you can get high-quality software VoIP clients; I'm personally enamored of Xten's suite, which work with Windows, Mac OS X, LindowsOS, and Linux. They're beautiful and come in free and paid flavors, including a multi-line conference version.
The Xten clients can interface with any standard SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) server, and many of the VoIP providers who offer long-distance over the Internet use standard SIP gateways. But getting from Xten outbound to the VoIP provider is a pain: I had to have the CEO of Xten provide me the details for a couple of VoIP services; those details aren't on the VoIP long-distance service sites.
Then there's the question of inbound service. Even though you can use Xten as the default client with Addaline.com, it's unclear whether you can receive inbound calls via their service. Most of the VoIP in software is focused on making calls to the PSTN and receiving calls from other folks using services like Free World Dial-up, which provides you with a free non-PSTN VoIP number and SIP gateway.
Om's scoop is certainly that Vonage is going to package the software and PSTN offering into a no-configuration package that will be as easy to use as their hardware service. Vonage's hardware solution is pretty simple: open the box, plug it in, wait a minute. You're done. Voice mail calls can be alerted via email, and other features can be enabled through the Web site's dashboard for your account.
Because Vonage works over broadband, a Pocket PC or a laptop equipped with their soft client in turn connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot or access point means free phone service everywhere -- it's another incentive to lower cell phone plans (for roaming purposes) and increase the number of hot spot locations.
[Update @ 3.45 pm: Andy Abramson of KenRadio wrote in to note that this is a public beta for existing Vonage users as of Dec. 8, which they reported on, and that there's no Pocket PC beta nor one that's in the works, as far as he's aware.]
I'm a recent Vonage convert. I use my cell phone as my office and roaming line, and although I'd switched to a $130/month plan from Cingular because of their rollover minutes, I had $250 and $450 bills in September and October during particularly intense work periods. Yes, that's the cost of doing business in a virtual way, so I'm not complaining. But I set out to figure out how to do it better.
I signed up for the $25/month Vonage plan (unlimited toll-free, incoming, and local calls, 500 minutes of long distance) and will be reducing my Cingular service by $30 and 350 minutes per month, thus canceling out the Vonage cost while also eliminating pesky unexpected charges. (I also discovered a bad latency problem on our local network that my ISP is now helping me solve -- Vonage needs low latency to work best.)
I'm still waiting for Cingular and Sony Ericsson to release a T68i FastForward cradle. This cradle allows you to pay Cingular $3/month for unlimited, zero-charge forwarded calls to a local number. Each cradle is programmed with the forwarding number, so you can have these cradles everywhere. Problem is, Cingular's site says that cradles are available; Cingular's outlets say May 2004.