Archives For VoIP

Marketing the Verizon Hub

Dave Zatz —  February 3, 2009

Prior to delivery, we’ve definitely seen the potential in Verizon’s Internet widget station here at ZNF. But as release approached, with the implementation and contract details revealed, my enthusiasm has waned. In fact, I turned down a hands on briefing at Verizon’s HQ last week. However, that didn’t dissuade another PR flack from rebutting a few thoughts with a pitch. He says the Verizon Hub is a “great value,” which we’ll get to in a minute. He also says it “may not be for you.” And, on that point, he’s probably right.

I have no problem with the Verizon Hub tech and quite like the idea of a compact info and entertainment kiosk in the kitchen – remember, I’m the old school Audrey fan. However, this sort of solution may be less relevant in the age of iPhones, Chumbys, and netbooks. Which is why the VoIP services are prominently featured.

In fact, customers will never lose site of that – because the $200 Verizon Hub requires a $35/month subscription. (Bring your own Internet.) By itself and compared to other telecom and cable VoIP solutions, that’s not entirely unreasonable for unlimited calls. (Although, it’s no Ooma.) However, the two year contract really stings. Additionally, I have absolutely no idea why this home service requires a Verizon Wireless phone/plan. And these are my two main problems with the Hub initiative.

An unproven product category has enough marketing challenges in explaining what problem it solves and what is required. Why make it that much more difficult to seal the deal by requiring a contract and limiting your potential customer base to only Verizon Wireless subscribers? Increased barriers to entry result in s/lower consumer adoption.

Evolution of the Verizon Hub

Mari Silbey —  January 23, 2009

Tech specs are still fuzzy, but what we do know is that this is a POTS-based cordless phone system with a touchscreen for Internet access and integration with Verizon wireless phone services. It’s meant to act as a digital photo frame, note board, family calendar, and widget station all at once.

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Ooma’s New Hardware

Dave Zatz —  November 13, 2008

At CES Unveiled earlier this week, Ooma introduced their next generation hardware. While “Telo” pricing and timing have yet to be locked down, it’s looking like we’ll see the new gear early to mid 2009 and at a similar price point to the existing hub ($250). As implemented now, an Ooma VoIP hardware purchase entitles owners to free and unlimited US calls. An optional Premiere subscription enables advanced telephony features and the International rates are quite reasonable. As you can see from the pic above, Ooma will also be offering telephone handsets – both bundled with the hub or available as accessories. However, customers will remain free to utilize existing telephones with their units. (I use a matching cordless Panasonic with my hub, which ran me about 60 or 70 bucks for three.) While the new device and architetchure will allow for additional functionality (hey, it’s a network appliance), we’ll probably see feature parity amongst the two Ooma generations for some time. Meaning, I wouldn’t hesitate to get in now. (And I quite like the silver industrial look of my unit.)

Ooma Expands Premiere Services

Dave Zatz —  October 29, 2008

VoIP service provider Ooma is expanding their “Premiere” service today to include several new features. While call logs and voicemail-as-email-attachments are probably overdue (compared to say a Vonage), the virtual numbers, multi-ring forwarding, multiple voicemail boxes, and blacklists truly expand the value of Ooma’s offering. As an Ooma owner, I’ve just enabled multi-ring forwarding. Though I use my system solely for outbound calls, some folks have jotted down the Ooma number and attempt to call me on it. So I’m looking forward to having my cell phone ring when a VoIP call comes in, regardless of my physical location.

As a refresher, the $250 Ooma hardware package gets you unlimited US calling and bundles typical features such as CallerID and voicemail – no landline needed. The Premiere tier adds all sorts of other goodies, including these new features, for $99/year.

In terms of full disclosure, I’m fine admitting my bias. A decent contingent of fellow Sling Media alumni landed at Ooma. I have a lot of respect for them and Ooma is a solid, compelling product offering – I’m rooting for their continued success. (Best Buy distribution and an additional $16 million investment don’t hurt.)

Just Say No to Mile-High VoIP.

Dave Zatz —  August 25, 2008

Flight Day continues…

Finally, we’re starting to see some reasonable alternatives to the prematurely killed Boeing Connexion in-flight Internet offering. AirCell is the company behind JetBlue’s testing, Virgin America’s promised network, and the now active American Airlines “GoGo” WiFi service. And early reports are positive. Mostly.

Not only did the FCC rule there’s no place on flights for cell phone chatter, (thankfully) AirCell has concluded the same – and is restricting VoIP traffic. At least they thought they were. Unfortunately, Andy Abramson has found a work-around by using Flash-based VoIP client Phweet. There’s not many I know more connected, always-on, Internet-craving than I. Yet, I’d rather remain net-free on flights than be subjected to folks yammering on headsets all flight along. Is it just me?

Hands On with Ooma

Dave Zatz —  August 12, 2008

Upon joining Dash, I gave up the seemingly unlimited supply of phones and service provided by Sling. Plus, I had dumped Vonage in Feburary after two and a half years – the call quality/connectivity had simply deteriorated to the point of being unusable. So, of course, I’ve burned through all my iPhone minutes (and rollover minutes) these last few months. I have tried being economical by using SkypeOut with a headset tethered to my laptop, but it’s been a bit uncomfortable. Especially since I tend to pace while on the phone.

Fortunately, a few of my former Sling peeps have relocated to Ooma and provided me with a device to play with. Setup was a breeze – the most difficult and time consuming aspect was deciding what area code (DC, 202) and number I wanted. (They’ll also port numbers.) The Ooma “Hub” (above, right) can sit between a router and modem or just hang off the router, which how I’ve configured it. Though I may reconsider the network topography since Ooma does provide QoS, port forwarding, etc. I’m also a sucker for sexy things and appreciate the understated Ooma design, which is much more visually appealing than my former clunky Vonage Linksys router.

Ooma retails for $250, which includes unlimited US calling. Forever. While it’s a bit more pricey than the MagicJack, no need to worry about leaving a computer on and Internet chatter strongly suggests Ooma call quality is superior. In my limited testing, I’ve been very pleased. Basic features like CallerID and Voice Mail are included, while an optional Premier tier of service ($99/yr) offers additional features such as extra lines/numbers and conference calling.

As much as I attempt to minimize cable clutter, I rely on wired headsets over Bluetooth for VoIP. A wired model provides equal if not better audio fidelity, without worrying about connectivity issues and a charged battery. My current work-provided headset got pretty banged up in my backpack recently and the mic’s become flaky. So, I just ordered this Logitech USB headset from Buy.com for $23 shipped (and after $10 rebate). I obviously can’t vouch for quality yet, but it looks comfortable and has a glowing red light.