Amstrad debuts home videophone

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As we predicted several weeks ago the new E3, the third generation e-m@iler internet phone from Amstrad, turns out to be a videophone with users able to see as well as hear the person they are calling.

The device, which goes on sale later this month for £99, or £179 a pair, features an integrated camera and a full colour screen as well as offering the e-mail, and internet functionality of previous e-m@ilers.

According to Amstrad the devices are simple to set up and operate and users can also send images from the phone to PCs and mobile as well as other E3s.

The video calls, which are paid for by the person who initiates the call, cost 50p plus the price of the existing phone call.

Interestingly the E3 will work with all telephone providers and not just with BT. There is however no international calling and users can’t use the device to make video calls to PCs or mobiles, just other E3s.

Another interesting snippet is that Amstrad says it subsidises the E3 via advertising, so users can expect to receive Amstrad approved junk mail filling up their in boxes.

Whether the E3 will be as mass market as Amstrad hopes is a moot point. Person to person video calling hasn’t really been a huge hit for 3G video mobile company 3. Initially this was because there simply wasn’t a large enough installed base of customers for it to work. More recent sluggish figures are possibly explained by a reticence on behalf of shy and retiring Brits to make video calls.

While there is undeniably a market for grandparents cooing over their children’s offspring it remains to be seen quite how popular video calling, via both landline and mobile, will prove to be in the UK.

Finally one other quick point. The 50p charge for the video calls seems fairly reasonable, however on top of this users pay the fee for the call. It’ll be interesting to see if cable companies and smaller phone operators get wise to this and charge extra for this facility. At present many offer very cheap or even free calls to certain landlines.

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