Friday, July 20, 2007

Ooma dumma

I've been reading today about the "Ooma", a VoIP device that's supposedly revolutionary and will bring P2P advantages to VoIP. I think the most charitable impression I have is that they're not looking critically at their potential customer base.

I think I'd have to characterize myself in most instances as a "not late" adopter. Very-new tech is always more expensive and often less stable than I'd like. Hell, I haven't even bought a TV designed to hang on the wall yet (soon, and doubtless the subject of a boring blog post, but not yet.) Still, in my new old home I don't have a POTS line. I'm thinking of getting one for fax if the workarounds for that begin to annoy me, but I just have no real need for one more number for the telemarketers. I'm very happy with my "old school" VoIP service that's proven quite reliable and very feature-rich (VoicePulse if anyone's curious.)

For Ooma to work as advertised, a significant fraction of their "customers" will need to keep their landline. (I say "customers" because under the Ooma model, all the company's revenue is front-loaded in the overpriced Ooma Hub, there are no future payments to them unless they offer international calling at per-minute rates or somesuch service.) For it to be cost-effective for the "customers" in a market that is the destination for lots of calls, they might not even want the least-expensive phone service, which is "metered" and has either a maximum number of free calls per month, or a per-minute charge even for local calls.

It seems to me that lots of their customers are likely to be people who have no real desire to keep their landline. If someone's paranoid about their ability to reach 911 but too lazy to research or test a prospective VoIP provider's ability to provide 911 service, they may not want to rely on a black box (it seems to be gray from the pictures, but you get the idea) to route their call locally, and what does the thing do if you're one of those bad "customers" who doesn't maintain a POTS line to share with the Ooma community? What does it do with 911 calls then, complain to you that it wants to route via POTS but you don't have a landline plugged in?

I'll stick with regular VoIP and a mobile phone for now.

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