Ezmax of South Korea will put on sale this May an MP3 player that allows users to make and receive telephone calls using VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol), the company said at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, last week.
The EZMP4200P contains software so that when the device is linked to an Internet-connected PC via a USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 port, people can make local and international calls using a microphone that is included in the device's earphone cord, said Ezmax's director, Lee Sung Soo.
When the device is connected to a desktop or notebook PC, it appears on screen as a removable disk icon. When the icon is double clicked, dialing software appears, enabling the user to make calls, he said.
Users need to sign up with a VOIP provider. The company is talking to providers in South Korea, Germany and other European countries to sign agreements that will enable the company to adjust the software in the device to the software used by the providers, Lee said.
In a demonstration at the company's stand at Cebit, the device was plugged into a notebook PC and the VOIP dialing software appeared. After a few clicks, an international call was successfully made via a South Korean VOIP provider to the mobile phone of a fellow Ezmax employee standing a few meters away.
While there was a slight delay and an echo, the voice coming out from the player's attached microphone was loud and clear, despite the background noise from the crowded exhibition floor.
The device's software is presently compatible with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 and later editions. Ezmax is considering making the player's software compatible with Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS X operating system, according to Lee. "This is not a big problem," he said.
The device is 70 millimeters long, 24 mm in diameter, and weighs 24 grams without the AAA-size battery. As well as MP3 music files, it plays a number of other formats including WMA (Windows Media Audio), ASF (Advanced Systems Format) and Ogg. In addition, the device is capable of voice recording, comes with an FM radio and has a two-color (blue and yellow) 128 pixel by 64 pixel OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen, according to the company.
The player uses flash memory to store songs. Flash memory retains data even when the electricity is switched off.
The device is available in three models, each with a different storage capacity: 256M bytes, 512M bytes and 1G byte.
The company aims to launch the product in South Korea and European countries in May, according to Lee. There is no word of an Australian release.
"We've already had talks with three providers this week and they have said they are very interested," he said.
If the company signs agreements with VOIP providers in the U.S., it will also sell the product in that country, Lee said.
The added VOIP software adds about US$8 to the price of the company's non-VOIP capable devices. Prices for the EZMP4200P will be about US$150 for the 256M-byte model and about US$220 for the 1G-byte model, he said.