Late last week there was quite the buzz in the VoIP part of the blogosphere about "Ooma" a new company with $27 million in funding that claims to "transform telecom services" and let you "make local and long-distance calls anywhere in the US for free" (provided, of course, that you live in the US). I saw all the coverage and thought about writing something here, but I just couldn't get overly excited to do so. My first reaction was, well, "how is this different from PhoneGnome or other similar systems?" (And I enjoyed the fact that PhoneGnome promptly came out with a "Build Your Own Ooma" Challenge!)
My second reaction was that with their peer-to-peer architecture (letting others share your phoneline) there are bound to be security concerns (opinions here and here) and that it looks like it involves changing out your existing firewall/router and that simply isn't something I see people wanting to do.
Anyway, there's been a whole lot of words written on this issue and so I thought I'd point to some of the pieces out there. First, some nice summaries:
- ComputerWorld's IT Blog Watch: "Ooma selling free phone service"
- Jon Arnold: "Ooma - a Triumph of Technology or PR?"
And here are a range of the other articles out there:
- Om Malik's original post which has now attracted 130 comments: "Ooma wants voice to be free"
- Aswath Rao critiques it: "Ooma? No Ma"
- Ken Camp gives it a thumbs-down: "Oompa Loompa Oooma"
- Stuart Henshall rips it apart: "Ooma - Will Blow $27 Million"
- Alec Saunders provides some good details and analysis: "Ooma revisited"
- Mark Evans is excited about free local calls: "The Dawn of the Free Local Call"
- Markus Göbel outlines security concerns: "Why Ooma is a security risk"
More details direct from ooma through the ooma FAQ. Kudos for them for calling their beta program the "White Rabbit" program - it's cute for those who understand the reference.
In the end, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of it all. I have a really hard time believing that a huge number of people will shell out $399 for a box like this. We'll see.
P.S. I noticed that the FAQ says this about international calling:
If you want to call overseas, you can use ooma by pre-purchasing international minutes at ooma.com for rates as low as five cents per minute.
In the era of Skype, Yahoo!Voice, Microsoft's Windows!Live, AIM and countless others that are essentially driving the cost of international calling down toward $0, it seems hard to believe that they will get people to pay "rates as low as five cents per minute".