Comcast and VoIP
(Sponsor: Lok Technology)
Comcast rolls out its VoIP offering, its stock rises, and Om Malik's take is right on: At $39.95 (bundled with Comcast broadband, or $54.95 by itself), the service looks too expensive given the features it's offering and the competition that's already on the playing field. Andy Abramson predicts Comcast will drop prices and expand its VoIP feature set once it does a reality check.
Yes, but: From a consumer's point of view (that's mine), the biggest obstacle Comcast must get across is an artifact of the cable-TV business: It is accustomed to thinking that the people it serves really don't have much of a choice in the marketplace. As we noted a few weeks back, this kind of thinking is demonstrated by Cablevision's pricing on its Optimum Voice offering: It's at $34.95 a month now, and Cablevision says that's where it's going to stay for the coming year. It's as if Cablevision thinks Vonage and Lingo and CallVantage and all the rest, some offering superior services at much less than Optimum Voice, don't exist or that its customers are too dumb to figure out they can choose. (On the other hand, never underestimate the attraction of something easy, and the cable MSOs can sell ease of adoption to their customers.)
In any case, the cable companies are jumping into what ought to be a vibrantly competitive market for at least the next few years. I'm guessing that their ultimate success in the voice business will depend on how well they adapt to that reality.
(Disclaimer: I do have some history with Comcast, just for the record. I was employed by a company, TechTV, that Comcast bought last year to merge into a videogame channel it owned, G4. As part of the merger, all of my TechTV colleagues and I were laid off and our operation moved down to Los Angeles. Word on the street since then is that the merger has not gone at all well and that the channel's ratings have plummeted. But that's another story.)