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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