July 19, 2007

Ooma? No Ma

If you have not read about this new service that is couched as a product, you can get more detailed information from Om Malik. Apparently he has been briefed on this and likes what he has seen, because he has written uncharacteristically gushing post on it. Of course many others have written up and I am sure your RSS reader has located many of them. Since I have not been briefed about it and my source is just Om’s description, my understanding of this product is very limited and prone for error. Still, I am decidedly negative and let me share my reasoning.

As I understand it, Ooma is a standard ATA with an FXS port and FXO port. This means that you can connect a standard phone to it (at the FXS port) which will connect to Internet. Just like with any other ATA, this will (presumably because Om does not go into that much detail) “register” with a central server so that the server can create a directory. I also presume that they use SIP, but that is immaterial here. You will use the phone connected to Ooma to dial out the person’s “number”. If that number is an Ooma number, then the central server will inform the far-end user. If on the other hand, it is a PSTN number, then it does something which is being billed revolutionary: it will look for a Ooma device in the neighborhood of the called number and also connected to PSTN via the FXO port. If one is available, then the call will be routed to that Ooma box, which will patch it to the called number. BellsterfwdOUT, you say? Oh, you have long memory. That is not good.

Secondly, the device itself is not anything radical. There are many devices like this. Sipura makes one; my employer has one and I am sure there are many others. PhoneGnome has developed some additional software that can run such boxes that simplify and enhance user experience considerably. And all can be had at a much reduced price. So what is new here?

Thirdly there has not been much discussion on practical realities. The fwdster concept (which Jeff Pulver has pointed out is derived from Ham radio community) requires a community feel. Is it realistic to expect that in the wild? How to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the patched calls? Of course, how to ensure that the central server will be around to provide the needed directory service? After all without that, Ooma is just box.

Om compares it to the PC revolution. But he also points out that Ooma is planning to offer enhanced services on a subscription basis. But with the PC, I could develop applications and run it on my machine without paying anybody anything. Will Ooma allow me to develop my own features? Why do most of the times, Netheads emulate Bellheads while denigrating them?

My negative outlook was sealed when I read in their website that the phone “industry that hasn't innovated in 100 years”. Oh really?

Posted by aswath at July 19, 2007 11:47 AM
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And someone gave them 27M$.

I am speechless.

Posted by: Andrew at July 19, 2007 12:54 PM

Ya apparently we're all still using hand cranked phones with local switchboards manned by real people cross connecting cables to connect the call. Sheesh - smoke and mirrors aplenty there.

Posted by: Doug Alder at July 20, 2007 11:40 AM

Hey Aswath.

You dont happen to have any invites for ooma.com to spare, do you? I will be leaving for army deployment soon and that service really will solve the problem of contacting my wife and kids back home since we are given one dedicated internet line, but i dont carry a laptop.

Was just wondering if you happened to have any left since you seem not that pleased with the idea of ooma.


Posted by: Avner at July 20, 2007 02:25 PM

In googling this story I have found a number of blogs where Avner has made the exact posting..a few questions for Avner...What branch of service are you in? What is your MOS? what is your current duty station? What was your duty station before this rotation?? Do you really believe we are Stoopid?
Jist sayin...(note..I am posting a similar post(not copy and paste like Avner) where he shows up..
It was nice becoming aware of your blog..I will bookmark and visit again...Thank you...

Posted by: nogo war at July 20, 2007 03:10 PM

@Avner: I do not have any "invites".Please note that this is a hardware product that they need to ship to a physical address. So the legitimacy of the request will be validated by that company.

Posted by: Aswath at July 20, 2007 03:22 PM

@nogo war. Ive replied to your concerns on Zoli's blog. I was simply and humbly requesting an invitation and to tailor every request individually would be a waste of time. Also, If you read carefully, I did not completely copy and paste what I wrote here on Zoli's blog. So, please; Stop making judgments on me.
Thanks Aswath. I do have a physical address at the moment, before I ship out. Thanks anyway.

Posted by: Avner at July 20, 2007 03:29 PM

@Avner: I am sorry that I am not much of help. But last year Tom Evslin had a post discussing the available alternatives for deployed soldiers. Please take a look at http://blog.tomevslin.com/2006/03/how_do_soldiers.html.

Posted by: Aswath at July 20, 2007 03:52 PM

Thanks Aswanth.
That post has some really helpful insights I can inquire about with my OIC.

Posted by: Avner at July 20, 2007 03:57 PM

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