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]