CEBIT - Thomson vies for place in digital living room

Thomson is showing a quirky telephone music player on its stand at Cebit, alongside another phone that doubles as an RSS reader.

Thomson SA has a quirky idea for a music-playing cordless telephone. It is showing a mock-up of the device on its stand at Cebit, alongside other multimedia gadgets for the home, and hopes to have it on the market in the second half of this year.

With the shiny white handset perched on top of the base-station charger, the T2007 looks like a stylized, iconic rotary telephone of the 1950s -- although there is no twisty cable to get in a tangle. Pick up the handset and the keypad and screen are revealed: it will communicate with the base station using DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications), and the base station will connect to VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) services through a broadband home gateway. What appear to be the earpiece and microphone will also function as stereo loudspeakers: Lay the handset down on its side, and it will behave like a portable stereo, streaming music from Internet radio services.

While most telephones are designed to transmit sound in the range 300Hz to around 3.3kHz, adequate for human speech, Thomson's T2007 will offer what the company calls "HD sound," with enhanced bass down to 50Hz and treble up to 7.5kHz, for music and for voice calls made through compatible VOIP services.

Thomson showed other devices that are closer to market.

An as-yet unnamed multimedia player looks a little like Nokia's N770 or N800 wireless tablets, and is designed to be used in a similar way. Its touch-screen display has a resolution of 800 by 480 pixels, and it can show TV streamed over a Wi-Fi connection from the home gateway, or fed from a digital TV tuner plugged into its USB (Universal Serial Bus) port. Future software upgrades will turn it into an internet browser or, with a USB Web cam connected, a videophone.

Another cordless telephone, already on sale under the GE brand in the U.S., but not yet available in Europe, offers a novel feature: a built-in RSS reader. On its small color screen, the phone can display news, weather or traffic updates drawn from a service called My Infokiosk, so you can check how to dress or what route to take for your journey to work without turning on a PC or looking out the window. It will also be possible to add other RSS feeds using a Web interface, company officials said.

Like many of Thomson's other products, the phones will be distributed in Europe primarily through telecommunications operators, which will bundle then bundle them with related services, so you may not find them in stores. Prices for end users are determined by the operator, the company said.