Companies such as Vonage
had better look to their laurels, as new kid on the block Ooma
is looking to steal their thunder with a product that offers VOIP
calls – but with a twist. From September, you will be able to get your hands on the Ooma, a hub that combines VOIP with regular landlines. But you have to shell out a lot of dosh first…
And that’s $400 – or $399, to be exact. This is what happens. You buy your Ooma Hub and connect it. It gives you free internet calls, but also works with your existing landline. If you have to dial 911 it does so on your landline (VOIP apparently can have problems connecting to the emergency number). International calls are automatically routed through the internet – which means they are gratis.
There are other benefits as well: Ooma gives you a virtual second line, meaning that if another call comes in while you are already on the phone, your butler/gimp/special friend/warthog can answer it from another extension. It comes with a built-in answering machine, and you can check your messages and call logs online. So, kind of like Skype, but not Skype.
WSJ’s Mossberg has just had a go on one and gave it the Walt thumbs-up, with just one niggle: he had a bit of trouble with incoming calls until he connected to another jack.
The Ooma comes out in September but until then they’re making it rather exclusive – rather like the launch of gmail. Over the summer, 1500 lucky people will be getting freebies, as well as three Ooma tokens to give out to their friends so that they can pick up a hub for free. Lucky them. [Wall Street Journal]
The FCC has told cable companies to get moving in supporting CableCARD technology, rejecting a bid Wednesday by Comcast to receive more time to implement the platform in set-top boxes it provides by July.
Speaking at CES in Las Vegas, chairman Kevin Martin chastised the cable industry for dragging its feet in offering the technology, and said its advent would lead to new options for consumers in viewing cable television.
Instead of renting boxes from the cable providers, long a cash cow for companies like Comcast, devices would be able to be shipped from the factory “cable ready” for today’s digital cable networks. Additionally, boxes would be able to be sold at retail.
Comcast has vowed to appeal the decision. The company says the FCC policy carries no benefit for consumers, and may cause rates to increase as much as $2 to $3 per month. While smaller operators would have more time to comply, the bigger providers would be required to comply by the July deadline.
The technology is more than a decade late. Congress passed laws in the mid-1990s saying that cable companies were to come up with technology that would allow consumers to plug cable lines directly into televisions to receive advanced services.
However, the cable industry won repeated delays, and only in the past few years has CableCARD technology been offered as a solution. While the first implementation did not support the advanced features, newer versions do.