Asus woos Skype users with fancy videophone

Asus has exported its expanding 'Eee' brand to videophones, putting on sale a standalone device that lets Skype users videoconference without the need for a PC or webcam.

The 'new' news is that the device is actually on sale in ordinary places such as the UK. Announced late last year in Taiwan and widely trailed as the 'AiGuru SV1', but now apparently renamed as the 'Eee PC videophone', the imposing 1.6 kilogram device sports a 7 inch colour LCD screen, an integrated 0.3 megapixel webcam, a 10/100 Ethernet connection and 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi.

The unit plugs into the mains, but also comes with a rechargeable battery which gives it enough power to be carried from room to room for around 20 minutes talk at a time, or 30 minutes on standby.

As with Skype on a computer, the videophone allows access to all Skype's usual calling and video features by way of automated login. This enables Asus to keep the number of front panel buttons to an absolute minimum, while also minimising software complexity. The OS that holds all this up is an embedded version of Linux.

"The Eee Videophone is Skype's first foray with a partner into the videophone category," said Skype's Manrique Brenes, which co-developed the product with Asus.

"With more than 25 percent of Skype-to-Skype calls including video, we know that video calling is an easy, accessible and relevant way for people to communicate. The videophone offers the benefits of video calling to a much wider audience, allowing friends and families to share their worlds face-to-face without being tied to a computer."