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Verizon Voice Hub: Life in the fast lane

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

The Wall Street Journal reports that Verizon is pulling the
Voice Hub from their retail stores and will focus the product/service via “on-line”
sales. This is clearly
a euphanisim for “we’re killing the product”.  Word on the street has it Verizon sold <
10,000 units in its short 3 month life span, despite spending millions on
product development and marketing.

As I predicted on April 23rd, this was going to
be a DOA product, but I’m surprised and impressed that Verizon has the guts to
call it a day this quickly. The product violated a number of basic marketing
rules. Which are:

Don’t try and save
the dead
– fixed line telephony is over, people no longer care about having
a home telephone line. The statistics bare out that over 18% of household have
gone wireless and Sprint believe this will expand to 30%, seems likely as the
telcos announce quarterly wireline losses. It’s gonna take a while, but it’s going
to zero and VoIP simply doesn’t hit the value points to save home telephony (expect
a similar trend in the enterprise space). The Voice Hub says it all, it’s hub
for voice first and no one wanted or needed that.

Unremarkable value
– if you’re expecting mass adoption rates, your product needs
to drive the user to action, namely go buy it. This message needs to be simple
and compelling. A $199 phone, 2 year service agreement and $35 a month service,
none of this sounded very interesting. T-Mobile has done a much better job with
their $10 a month VoIP offering with the attitude, hey, you really don’t care
much about your home telephone line but for $10 you’ll keep it.

Combining a service
& device
– a major “no no”. Consumers hate to see a service and product
bundled whereby the value is the sum of the “service/product”. iPhone is not a
service, it’s a product, you could care less about the service from AT&T
who provides zero added value. In fact, most of us select our wireless phone
first and simply use the carrier who has exclusivity to that product. If the
wireless operators didn’t make it hard to crack the phone or move service with
multi-year agreements, you might change your service more often. Tivo learned this lesson when they first launched with expensive equipment and service.

Cool is relative –
It’s cool, only if I can show it to you. While the Verizon Hub might be cool, I
can’t whip it out to show on a street corner, because it’s sitting in some dead
corner of my house.

Mobility counts –
whether it’s a cordless kitchen handmixer or net notebook, consumers want
mobility with everything. While Verizon Hub had a DECT handset, the cool part
wasn’t mobile at all.

More is generally
– quick, what did the Verizon hub do? Think, think. Can’t name a
single thing can you? This is a classic case of design by committee, the
Verizon Hub tried to do so many things on day one, yet not a one is memorable. Verizon
should have focused on doing no more than 3 things really well (unfortunately I
have no vision for a what a wired small screen should do well that I’d willing
pay $199 for).

So the Verizon Voice Hub sinks beneath the waves into the graveyard of VoIP services. I toss a wreath into the water as my good-bye.