Slotting an Atom into a home phone just sounds plain ridiculous, but the Home Media Phone is more than just a VoIP handset and base station. The base station (which doubles as a speaker phone) has its own software platform, developed in flash and furnished with a full API, and serves many purposes of a PC in a picture frame-sized package. The current set of apps is adequate, but after using it for a few minutes it became very clear that the Home Media Phone could actually be a fantastic net appliance.
Like half the products at IDF, this the Media Phone has a touch interface, which at the moment looks an awful lot like the iPhone's. Using it is easy, and it's at a size and orientation that makes for comfortable casual use. The screen was responsive enough for sustained use without frustration, and navigating the interfaces was—and this is really the only thing that matters on these small devices—painless. The handset was attractive and felt solid, though it's currently not touch-enabled (I was assured that this would be rectified by launch).
In its current state it's difficult to see what exactly the Media Phone is meant to do. It's got no browser, but an RSS reader. It can connect with home automation software and control household electronics, but it's stuck to the wall with a power cord. In response to these concerns, the guys at the booth were keen to tell me about the API, which would allow developers to enable a vastly larger set of apps and features. Those customisations will be the deciding factor in whether or not this phone is at all successful. Well, that and its price. OpenPeak says that their first units could ship to customers as soon as January of next year, and they will all be sold with subsidies as part of VoIP service contracts. Negotiations are under way, but the OpenPeak guys say it's conceivable that the units could be free. [Giz at IDF]