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Ooma devices going on sale soon

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Ooma, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based start-up that launched last month and was greeted with mixed reactions from many in the VoIP community is going to start taking pre-orders for its Hub and Scout devices, according to the company, will orders shipping sometime next month. The company’s products have been available to select beta testers.

“We didn’t expect the initial response and that is why we are offering a limited number of devices for presale,” Andrew Frame, CEO of Ooma said. Ooma is going to sell the Hub for $399 and Scouts for $39 per unit. Ooma promises free domestic calls, a claim some have taken issue with.

Update: Ooma co-founder Dennis Peng explains Ooma and its technology, and how it is different.

Those of you who are unimpressed by Ooma and are looking for an instant-buy option, we recommend PhoneGnome, which has an equally capable array of offerings that start at $99. The company also offers a $20 whole house kit.

Update #2: My intention wasn’t to say that they are one and the same thing. Sure there are similarities between Ooma and PG, and they do serve the same end goal of making voice calls cheaper/free. are

16 Responses to “Ooma devices going on sale soon”

  1. Jim Dutton

    I’ll have to say that everything discussed by Mr. Peng above has been delivered on. I’ve been using the Ooma system for several days now, and it is a distinct improvement over my decades long relationship with BellSouth/AT&T.

    Voicemail forwarded to email is wonderful.

    Your entire phone system being instantly turned into a two line system (by adding their Scout devices) is wonderful.

    Unlimited long distance without paying $25 a month for it is … wonderful.

    I just hope that this company prospers and is able to provide this service to me for years on end. However, my break even point on the cost of the devices vs the phone bills I won’t be paying anymore come VERY quickly in this process.

  2. I’ve been using Ooma for two days and have had a mixed experience (which isn’t surprising for a “beta” product). The ease of use is appealing for me, as is the fact that you don’t need to have a PC on to use it. My fiance is not tech savvy at all, so using solutions like Skype or Y! messenger would only confuse her. And yes, I understand that you can buy standalone handsets to use with those services, but the voicemail features of the Ooma box are elegantly simplified for her use.

    The call quality has been outstanding–far better than using Skype, Y!, VoipDiscount, etc. with my relatively expensive PC headset. I was particularly impressed with the call quality to Asia. The pricing is also better than Y! and Skype.

    The bad side is that I’ve been experiencing random disconnections on four of the five international calls I placed. This is not acceptable for a paid service, even if the call quality and pricing are superior.

    Hopefully these issues are fixed. After two days, I’m very impressed with the potential of Ooma. That said, I also think the company will have a bitch of a time marketing this product. The people that will benefit most from the ease of use are the least likely to understand what it does and why they should get past the seemingly high initial cost.

  3. @David Beckemeyer

    Hello David,

    sorry that I didn’t know the “Bring Your Own Provider” feature of PhoneGnome. It does exactly what I want: Open your company’s ATA for other providers. That’s a great feature which reminds me of Voxalot. You find an apology in my blog.

    Markus

  4. In regards to the comment from Markus Goebel: “Why doesn’t PhoneGnome admit that “Free calls between PhoneGnome members” is a normal feature that is available at every other VoIP provider. It’s called “on net calls”.”

    PhoneGnome provided when introduced in 2005 and continues to provide a unique version of on-net calls:

    1. I dial the person’s real phone number
    2. The call rings to the person’s regular phone (fixed or mobile)
    3. I pay NO monthly fees

    The typical definition of “on net” calls is different, generally one of the folowing:

    With a service like Vonage, it means I can call someone else that has Vonage, but we both pay Vonage $15-up per month – fails test #3 above.

    With a service like Free world dialup (FWD) or Skype, it means I can call another FWD user using FWD, but I dial a weird FWD number (not their normal number) and the call rings to their FWD “bat phone” or PC (not their regular phone) – fails test #1 and #2 (and with some services, even #3) above.

    PhoneGnome pioneered a new definition of “on-net” calls – it was the only service where one lifts the handset, dials a real telephone number, and makes a free call automatically (seamlessly), with no monthly fees.

  5. Two points of clarification:

    1. Users of the PhoneGnome box can select ANY third-party SIP-based provider for call termination (in response to Fritz!box comment). We offer a number of plans from our partners, but users do not have to use them. See ‘Bring Your Own Provider’ option on this page: http://www.phonegnome.com/minutes.html and also, we have promoted open and interoperable as a cornerstone of our philosophy, so it comments tossing PhoneGnome in with all the closed services out there is a tad annoying: http://www.phonegnome.com/open.html

    2. PhoneGnome does “make free calls to regular phones” in contrast to a comment from “Hank Williams” – Any phone number (including mobile numbers in the US) can be registered. The person receiving the call receives it on their normal “regular” phone – they do not need to be signed in and they do not need the PhoneGnome box or any other special hardware or software.

    One other thing, I agree withothers that offers are different. I think people equate the products because the PhoneGnome box and the underlying patent pending technology of our platform (that has been serving real users since 2004) is similar to technology used in the Ooma box/system. And, as Aswath notes, it can be frustrtrating to read statements like “brilliant technical achievement” or suggesting other elements of tetechnology that have been deployed by PhoneGnome in dozens of countries for several years as being “innovated by Ooma next month”.

    The PhoneGnome technology could be used to create an Ooma-like offer – we have not elected to do so. However, since PhoneGnome is an open platform that encourages third-party applictions (another way we are open), we invite anyone that likes the business model to put their money where their mouth is: http://www.phonegnome.com/blog/?p=108

  6. Comparing the $15-$25 one pays for a replacement phone service like Vonage vs. what one pays for Ooma is comparing apples and oranges. With a Vonage (or similar) service, that amount is the entire bill. With Ooma, the $400 box only offsets the portion of our bill that is long distance (US only) calls. I still am paying for the local service and an expensive unlimited local service plan. I wish Ooma would be more specific as to what exactly are the services I need on that local service and what my monthly cost for that service will be (so don’t buy the “no month;y fees” story, as you will still be paying these).

    So the opportunity we’re talking about is the amount I spend on US long-distance calls that I make on my landline. I’m still paying for local calls, and my cell phone, even after Ooma, so I get no savings there (in fact< local service might actually be higher) Even without messing with any VoIP, I can already get US calls for a flat 3 cents/minute or less. The phone company offers unlimited US to me for $20/month (again, without VoIP). And I already have all the minutes I’m paying for on my cell phone to use up too. So after local calls, calls made on cell phone, how many minutes are left to “save” with the $400 box?

    I think the way one has to look at this is simply to take the actual cost per month without Ooma and the monthly cost with Ooma and see if it really makes that much difference and how long it would take to break even. What’s the warranty on the box? Will I really keep it that long? Etc. Don’t get caught up in the “free” hype from any of these companies.

    One big barrier the Ooma guy doesn’t talk about is that Ooma requires changes to my local phone service. I wish they were more clear with what exactly those are and how much it might affect our bill (what about bundles we already have etc.) This is an area where Ooma doesn’t seem “simple” at all.

  7. I would Jump right onto Ooma if they offered a payment plan over two years of $25 a month to replace my Vonage line with Ommas line .

    $400 up front is a purchase I cant Justify to my Mrs but she does’nt mind paying $15 (about $20 after taxes/fee) for Vonage every month .

  8. Rob Mowery

    The bigger question is will Ooma facilitate a way for users to add encryption to the devices and thus allow those users that call other users of Ooma systems to encrypt their calls. Hopefully if they do, it will be an open plug-n-play type situation, thus not restricted to one vendor’s encryption as with Skype.

    Maybe that feature isn’t such a priority, after all, no one really does wiretapping these days, do they? ;-)

  9. Dennis Peng

    I’m a founder of ooma and have been running the product management group since the beginning. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify a few things about us.

    There are three pillars to our core value proposition that are unique to ooma:
    * unlimited calling to any number in the US – with no monthly fees
    * the Instant Second Line – the easiest second line you’ll ever use
    * the Broadband Answering Machine – the best voicemail experience ever

    A lot of media coverage has focused on the first element – unlimited calling with no monthly fees. It may appear like others already offer this, but no competitor does. Whether it is requiring both parties to be on the same service, or requiring the other side to register their phone number or download an app, these are all barriers that are erected and impede the user’s ability to make free calls. Why are users increasingly forced to perform the function of least cost routing in their head? Has the other side registered their phone number? Or maybe they are on-line? How many minutes do I have left on my cell phone? Have my free nights and weekends kicked in? Oh wait, do I have good coverage here? The considerations during the simple act of dialing are just too great. With ooma, don’t think – just dial. There’s no charge to call any number in the US – it’s as simple as that.

    Now ooma could have gone to market with just that value proposition, but we also wanted to shift the focus of the industry to doing more.

    The power of VoIP should be harnessed not just to reduce costs or to emulate all the things you can do already do on the PSTN, but also to improve upon all the comprises we’ve had to live with on the current phone experience. We specifically chose to tackle two familiar experiences that almost anyone can identify with – second lines and voicemail. The Instant Second Line converts all your single-line phones into two-lines phones, with no new wiring, installation by your phone company, or changing of your phones. All this with the same number you already have. The Broadband Answering Machine is a unique hybrid of a traditional answering machine and a powerful voicemail system. For the majority of use cases, the answering machine is a superior service. It’s hands-free, has an intuitive user interface, obvious message waiting indicator and let’s you screen your messages and determine whether or not you want to answer the call by the context of the message. Voicemail, on the other hand, works when your line is busy and gives you always-on service, reliable storage, simple remote access, and web/e-mail integration. Before, you had to choose one or the other. The Broadband Answering Machine combines the best of both.

    Both the Instant Second Line and Broadband Answering Machine are unprecedented features. To do them requires a unique combination of assets (processors, lights, buttons, speakers, inter-device networking, etc.) and architecture (star vs bus) that no ATA or other embedded device has ever had. So we built our products from the ground-up. This allows us to do things like distribute service to all phone jacks in the home without being a phone wiring expert, or build the flexibility into the product to allow our customers to choose whether they want the added reliability/safety of a landline, or the extreme cost savings of using it without one. And along the way, we built infrastructure like secure automated software distribution and upgrade mechanisms, encrypted out-of-band control-plane, auto- configuration technology that allows the device to be plug-and-play at the front of the home network, and a long list of other small innovations that the user may never see. What they will see, however, is a continual set of new services and the trained-eye will realize that we’ve designed this platform so that new services don’t all need to be “in-the-cloud”, but rather a unique blend of client/server intelligence and interactions.

    Ultimately, ooma is focused on delivering simple solutions and great experiences to everyday communication problems. We’ve tried to tear down all the barriers to adoption that prevent VoIP from being a mainstream technology. And hopefully, people can appreciate our unique angle to approaching the industry and that the ooma solution is dramatically different than the PhoneGnome product. If you see other problems or ideas that ooma should be focused on, I’d love to hear about it.

    Thanks for listening.

    Dennis Peng

  10. @Hank Williams:

    As one of the persons who invoked PG in the context of Ooma, let me give my reasons. They are similar in the sense two people are similar. Both of them are ATAs with FXO port and the ability to select the outgoing line for a call; both of them can bridge the two outgoing lines; both of them have answering machine and so on.

    Of course there are differences – PG will not “borrow” your box on behalf of third party. OK, let me state it more clinically: PG does not have the capability to do “distributed termination”. With Scout, Ooma is able to make another phone jack into a second line, with Ooma hub acting like a PBX. But it is not clear that this equivalent to “whole house kit”. By this I mean whether if you are on a call via the hub and another member of your family picks up the phone connected to the Scout, will they be connected to your call. Ooma has to confirm this; but I would hazard that they will not. They will get a dial tone and can make an independent call.

    One has to compare and contrast so as to make a decision whether the additional cost is worth. By the way when I suggested Ooma is like PG, my motivation was to dilute Om’s praise of Ooma to be “brilliant technical achievement”. I still stand by that.

  11. What about MagicJack? $39.95 for the device and 1 year of service, then each additional year is $19.95. That does give you free calls to regular phones, not just net calls. At those rates it would take 20 years (yes I did the math) before it would be more expensive than Ooma. It would also be cheaper than PhoneGnome unless you use less than 1000 minutes each YEAR.

    I’ve been using it for a month now and the quality is great.. and no I don’t work for them.

  12. This article is a great story for the “Voice” section. You should tag it as such.

    Besides:

    I don’t understand the US American market of VoIP devices. Why do you accept ATAs that are locked to one provider? Because you know that from mobile telephony? Why do Sunrocket users have to throw away their hardware and cannot use it with another company?

    Why doesn’t PhoneGnome admit that “Free calls between PhoneGnome members” is a normal feature that is available at every other VoIP provider. It’s called “on net calls”.

    In Germany we use open devices, such as Fritz!Box, where you can install up to 10 VoIP providers of your choice. With its dial plans you assure that you make only free on net calls and always use the cheapest provider for your other calls, depending on where you are calling to.

    In the USA they seem to lock open VoIP devices to just one provider, like they also do with cell phones.

    Is this really the “land of the free”? ;)

  13. Hank Williams

    I don’t know why you guys keep claiming that Ooma and phonegnome are the same thing. I don’t work for either company and have neither service yet so I am just learning.

    But at least based on the claims, Phonegnome doesn’t make free calls to regular phones, whereas Ooma does. Who knows whether this will really work but certainly they attempt to do different things. Equating them seems somehow just a bit err um, well I’ll just call it “inaccurate”. Also, I just checked out the Phonegnome kit and, well I am an engineer, but any time I have to install a physical tag on a wire in some phone box outside my house that says “telephone company do not reconnect this wire or it will damage equipment inside my house” I am a little scared. Also the kit talks about accessing a box outside my house somewhere that would definitely not be accessible in urban areas like New York (where I am).

    In short, Ooma claims simple and free. Phonegnome claims hard and not so free.