But the Hub is much more than an Internet phone. It also has some interesting Web-based features. Think in terms of your address book, anonymous call rejection, call logs, incoming call "blox" (their spelling, not mine), Internet directory lookup, permanent caller-ID block, simultaneous ring and visual voice mail. All of these are coordinated by visiting a special section of the Verizon Web site .
You also can look up movie start times and buy tickets. You can check local traffic reports before you head out of the house. You can get messages from family members on a Verizon Relay, the Hub's virtual bulletin board. V CAST videos (including pieces from providers like CNN, NBC, E Entertainment, and ESPN) are also part of what the Hub provides.
And, if you're a Verizon Wireless subscriber, the Hub also provides an interesting set of special features that you access on the 7-inch screen. Chaperone, for instance, is a way to keep track of your kids' Verizon cell phones. Not the bills they're running up but where those phones are actually located, 24/7. Or you can program your Hub to send your Verizon cell phone any calendar updates.
What the Hub isn't is a personal computer. It doesn't browse the Web or let you create a spreadsheet. It's meant to provide quick, meaningful snippets of information in a convenient form.
In addition to the monthly service charges, Verizon is asking $199 for the Hub - almost $200 more than the original free Minitel -- but in line for a cordless phone and a desktop video box. Additional cordless extension handsets are available.
For the record, Vonage charges $24.99 for its monthly phone service, which also includes free phone calling to a number of international locations.
I believe the most interesting feature of the Hub is that it's a Verizon Wireless product that's meant to compete/replace standard phone service from Verizon (not wireless). It will be interesting to see how consumers take to the idea.
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