The Null Device

Wireless Skype client / building a better paywall

This looks pretty nifty: a gadget the size and shape of a mobile phone which is a WiFi-based Skype client; it will connect to wireless base stations and send and receive calls over the internet using Skype, showing which contacts are online and calling phone numbers (credit permitting) as well. Best of all, it does not require a PC to be switched on and running Skype.

Of course, it is less than ideal, given that most wireless hotspots use a web-based kludge to collect payments, which renders them unusable for appliances not suited to web browsing. What the world needs is a standard for publishing access point metadata and negotiating payment or roaming. Perhaps, on each access point, an IP address (say, to be reserved for responding to HTTP requests, which could give XML-based metadata about the access point, handle logins in a standard fashion, and speak some kind of digital-wallet protocol if needed for payment. With that, a wireless VoIP phone (or satellite navigation client or news-ticker wristwatch or whatever appliance one wants to imagine) could ping this, grab data on the access point, and see if it can use it on its existing credentials (such as roaming agreements). If not, it could display the point's charges and ask the user if they want to pay for access.

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