We just blogged yesterday about SMBs' interest in VoIP, and the relative lack of products that suit their business needs.
Now comes a product that, while targeted to the consumer market, seems like it has potential to meet the VoIP needs of some SMBs.
Unlike most telecom plays, which sell folks inexpensive gear -- or even give it away -- and then make their money on services, Ooma makes its money upfront on a $399 box that broadband-enabled homes (or home-based businesses or other SMBs) can use to make unlimited free domestic calls. Long-distance calling is available at rates akin to those charged by Skype, according to Physorg.com.
Ooma also offers a free second line, voice mail and conference calling, and intends to add call-forwarding to mobile phones.
There are, of course, a couple of gotchas. Additional Ooma boxes for multiple phone lines, called Scouts, cost $39 each.
And you'll want to maintain a traditional landline. Why? Because that's how Ooma works. It utilizes peer-to-peer technology that piggybacks on the phone connections of other Ooma users. Ooma is currently giving away some 2,000 boxes to jump start the Ooma network. Users who get free boxes will then be asked to recruit three friends to also receive free gear in exchange for using the service.
A traditional landline will also be necessary to access emergency services, since Ooma doesn't fully comply with enhanced 911 services, points out a CNET writer.
Another potential gotcha: Ooma could go down in flames, as VoIP provider SunRocket recently did.
It might be worth taking a chance, however. As IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson notes, Ooma would only need to stay afloat for two years or so for users to recoup the upfront costs of the box.