Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ooma gets more Funding (and will make a bigger Crater)

Well, well, this is like the Herpes virus of VoIP: Ooma got another round of funding - a whole $14 million's worth. I guess by the preceding sentence I am nowhere near as optimistic about their survival as the author of the column I linked to.

While I applaud Ooma for their ability to convince some people to hand over other peoples' money, one needs to look between the lines of what's going on in the VoIP world:

After Sunrocket, any hint of competition in consumer VoIP pretty much ended. Sure, there is MagicJack rattling Vonage, but their appeal is limited to people who leave their computers on all the time. With most computers today drawing more than A/C units and rising power prices, that can't last.

Lingo and Packet8 exist, but have gone silent, leaving Vonage to the prize. Vonage has serious issues with customer turnover (called "churn" in the industry), and has flirted with the contracts by other names - "cancellation fee" and "rebate recovery fee" come to mind - following the lead of the mobile providers in the race to the bottom, since customers can't leave anyways.

An then there is Ooma. With an offering most people can't understand, the investors are throwing good money after bad. Look at the funds you have in your portfolio, and make your corrections.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Digital Transition: Once Again, Consumer Loses

Well, us proles will now have to live with digital transmission "quality."

My disclaimer: I have cable, from none other than Comcast. I always wonder if there is a good cable company, but that's enough for a whole blog on its own. And don't ask me about the esteemed products by Scientific Atlanta (now Cisco)...

Here are my notes:

1. So you transmit a HD signal, right? Why would you then use it to transmit a signal with poorer quality than before? I mean, all the shows in the last months (say, CNN on cable) have converted to even crappier looks, but then take the time to remind you this is supposed to be "HD" by putting the HD logos on both sides of the screen. You look like a shitty YouTube video.

2. Local TV stations do the same, although I am impressed by their commercials alternating between HD and low-res ones with illegible fine print (a bunch o'pixels).

3. Digital DRM still allows remote volume control. Just so you don't miss them, they still broadcast the commercials at volumes that give me blurry vision. Even feeding the digital into an external decoder (like my stereo receiver) causes this, so my pre-HDMI digital unit still understands the "crank it" flag. Ugh.

Never mind that the true proles (not us digitally enabled people in the outer party living within the grace of cable companies, or who buy new TVs every five years) have to buy this box to make their TVs work again, and the government hand-out program doing this ran out of money. Never mind the 22 billion dollars that were collected by the auction for the spectrum freed by DTV, which should be enough to buy everyone in the states a wide screen. $60 for a DTV converter box without the subsidy lets you discover that while you don't need as strong a signal, they're all broadcasting so weakly that you can't receive sh*t with your old rabbit ears. Or my PC DTV tuner.

I guess GW was right - "digitalistical tee vee is da best."

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