Personal computers were not designed initially to relay verbal telephone communication, which is now possible via the Internet. Video conferencing and telephony over the Net is still in its early stages and the varying quality of Net conversations has yet to been addressed by PC companies. Line standards will vary because telephone quality speech requires speeds of 8,000 bytes per second of bandwidth, four times faster than what a 14.4 kilobits per second modem can receive. In Hong Kong, such phone calls require a PC, software that enables audio applications over the Internet, and sound card. A microphone and speakers are used in place of a telephone. According to Jeff Hurmuses, Polycom managing director for Asia Pacific, there is a great demand for Internet telephony, but until now quality audio products have not been available to cater to the new market demand. Polycom, a maker of audio conferencing and tele-conferencing products, has introduced a phone system that facilitates clear, hands-free Internet calls. SoundPoint PC is an integrated microphone and speaker unit with a dial keypad and detachable handset. Acoustic echo and feedback are eliminated by digital signal processing software and full-duplex technology allows simultaneous two-way conversations without time delay. Suitable for audio and video conference calls, it supports Microsoft's NetMeeting 2.0 and sports a built-in hypercardioid microphone on the right side of the unit that picks up audio input within a 180-degree range of the microphone point. SoundPoint PC did not solve the problem of modem speed, but the emerging 56.6 kps protocol and upgraded telecom networks would improve Net line quality quickly, Mr Hurmuses said. SoundPoint PC is manufactured in Hong Kong by General Electronics, which helped design the product. The units are assembled in California before being shipped worldwide. Priced at $2,500, the phone system is targeted at corporate customers. Mr Hurmuses said the company was not working on a lower-end user model for the general home PC market. Polycom also has released an updated version of its SoundStation conference phone. Priced at $9,200, SoundStation Premier features wireless infra-red remote control, LCD display and speed dial. Units with optional tabletop extended microphones cost $11,300.