Let's start with a reminder: Ogo is a cool gadget for mobile IM - simply put.
There are also other nice features, like email, but the main cherry is supposed to be its ability to get a proper IM experience, with a full 2 hand keyboard, while also spreading some flashy digital lifestyle dust.
IXI mobile manifactures it (including OS), and the communication with the mobile phone's GPRS link is based on bluetooth I believe.
So far everything is wicked, but now comes the big question: who really needs it?
Yes - it looks great, it works great, but is it really geared towards the mass average user?
Seems that Cingular wireless has given its answer, when they decided to stop the Ogo partnership when they acquired AT&T wireless, only 9 months after it began.
But now Ogo is back in the hood. The latest distros are Swisscom Mobile - who claim they made their homework and found out that the average Swiss citizen spends around 12 hours a month logged in to MSN. Such an outstanding figure, isn't it?
The Israeli Globes site informs us that the basic agreement talks about 65k devices over 3 years, begining with 15k for first year. Yet again an amazing projection.
Ok, enough cynicism - as I'm not trying to mock IXI and their challenging foray into the Personal Area Network (PAN) vision. It's a tough battle on an undefined and virtually undiscovered market, which paints a vivid scene of filling the world with cool, tiny gadgets that are aimed at a specific functions.
A quick overview on this notion would be:
- Pro PAN = mobile phone is the center but not good for doing everything -> other cool and specific gadgets will accompany it.
- Anti PAN = the mobile phone inherits all the killer features -> will gradually develop into a multi-funtcion device, flavoured for each user type.
It's quite clear which concept is winning now. But it doesn't mean there isn't a future to IXI-powered devices within the next 2-3 years. My assumption is that the possible gateway to breakthrough with this kind of devices has to go through a killer mix of:
Low price that puts the device as a legitimate X-mass gift + Strong usability + some degree of viral distribution.
(Other concerns such as adoption of GPRS will be solved eventually by the operators).
So how does our buddy Ogo stand for this killer mix? let's see:
Low price -> Swisscom will offer it for $37, which seems to be a fair deal. On AT&T it was sold for $100, plus GRPS subscription fees - clearly not a compelling offer for the average IM user.
Strong usability -> is mobile IM really demands having a cool keyboard? I'm not quite sure. We do want the IM presence availalbe on our mobile, but the long chatting experience is still based around the desktop environment. It's very cool having a full chat when travelling the bus or train, but is it that essential? Seems that only in the 2 years ahead we'll know how much users appreciate this advantage. My current view -> it appeals only to a niche sector. The majority will adapt themselves to find shortcuts with the handset keyboard.
Viral factor - this argument can make miracles, if you know how to tap on it well. The features might not be killer, but if the price is ok, and there's an incentive to bring it to your friends, you still have a chance. We all know successful examples from the software world (Skype, social networks, P2P). But what can be done with hardware devices, other than the "refer a friend and get a discount" sort of plans?
Typically, the IXI lads would want to capture users with a message like:"It's not just cool, it's so much better, it's a big upgrade". How can they enrich the Ogo with such major upgrades?
Maybe gift vouchers to claim Winks for messenger, realtones, ringtones, 3g packs or other hot mobile media products? Maybe a special killer game add-on for MSN (not available for other users)?
I don't have a clear answer, but I feel that the Ogo's promise has to "shine" a bigger value than just a rad and trendy keyboard. Make my IM experience significantly better and richer, show me a good price, and I'll be more prone to buying it.