With all the video flying around the web, is the world ready for videophones? VoIP phone company 8x8 hopes so: It's shipping its second-generation videophone.
Packet8 Tango is compatible with 8x8's pioneering corded deskset, the Packet8 DV326, but Tango isn't your father's deskset. At 8.5 by 5.5 inches, it looks a lot like a supersize iPod.
The pearl-white Tango includes a high-resolution, 5-inch color display; a navigation/select pad; onscreen menus; and a top-mounted, CCD video camera that rotates 180 degrees front to back. It delivers up to 30 frames per second of OK-quality video. At 2 pounds light and 1.5 inches slim, Tango slips easily into any nook or cranny when not in use. It's not large enough for conference room huddles, but it can videoconference up to three callers in onscreen windows.
For a handset, you use the same old analog cordless (or corded) phone already at your workstation. Sorry, no cellular connections--Tango needs a big, fat broadband pipe for streaming video.
Installation is pretty much the same as for any VoIP service: Connect Tango to your phone and network router (or broadband modem) with the included cables and configure your options on the account web page. That's after you've signed up for one of the service plans that start at $25 a month for unlimited North American calls and unlimited internet calls to other Packet8 subscribers worldwide.
Here's the rub: Your video correspondents must be Packet8 subscribers with either a Tango, Packet8 DV326 or a PC equipped with a videocam and Packet8's free, downloadable softphone. VoIP services include the usual caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, voice mail and voice mail-to-e-mail.
Tango is available on Packet8's site and through e-tailers for about $250.