Ooma, the company that debuted on a wave of hype last summer over its $399 Hub product and an offer of free voice calling to consumers, has been hit hard by executive departures and so far failed to live up to its promise. GigaOM reports that a new CEO is working on reducing the price of the device and honing the argument for it. With a connection to "actor" Ashton Kutcher, who also was involved with an online video marketing campaign for the company, the company has looked to create an aura of cool around the most uncool of telecom services-voice. But free isn't cool enough-or free enough as it turns out. Other VoIP companies (SunRocket) have failed at the high-concept games sort of similar to the one Ooma has been trying to play in making its money upfront, and the VoIP market continues to be a dangerous place for turning a profit, even for the companies that are succeeding there to some degree, such as Skype and Vonage.
Still, has Ooma, or free calling in general, had some impact on the traditional telecom industry at large? If there has not been a direct competitive effect, has it helped shape the way carriers view the value of voice or the possibilities of consumer device packaging and marketing? I don't really think so. VoIP itself has had an obvious competitive and philosophical effect, but new high-concept VoIP confections do not seem to have changed voice pricing or voice marketing overall. What do you think?
- see this post at GigaOM