Ooma Puts Unlimited Phone Calls in a Box

For $399, Ooma offers a hardware appliance that connects to broadband Internet and offers VoIP service over regular phones.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

July 19, 2007

2 Min Read

Another day, another company promising unlimited telephone calls.

Ooma, a Palo Alto, Calif., Internet telephony startup, is offering a box that connects to your broadband Internet connection and your regular old phone, priced at $399. After that, you get unlimited domestic calls at no additional cost. Think of it as Skype but square, tangible, and more expensive, at least if used for less than 13 years.

It may sound too good to be true, particularly in light of the troubles faced by Vonage and the collapse of SunRocket. But Ooma has a management team that includes executives from Apple, Cisco, IBM, and Yahoo, as well as actor/entrepeneur Ashton Kutcher. Ooma could be the next TiVo.

Like TiVo, Ooma could find itself acclaimed for its revolutionary technology, but struggling financially. TiVo's problems stem from Hollywood looking unkindly on companies intent on overturning the old order and the same can be said about telecom companies. TiVo is only now starting to win friends in Tinseltown. TiVo just posted its first quarterly profit in Q1. If Ooma's only source of revenue is selling boxes, it may find hardware is a tough business.

The Ooma box is being made available to a select group of beta testers. It's supposed to be available to the general public in the fall. The service will include a free second line, online administration, conference calling, and voice mail.

The main reason that Ooma has a chance is that it allows people to make Internet calls using normal phones. Skype, for all its promise, still baffles the technophobes. But Ooma is sure to earn enemies before it earns much money. If the company doesn't end up partnering with the likes of AT&T or Comcast, it will have to watch its back as it pushes the envelope.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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