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Optical/IP

Pogo Bounces Back to Life

Farewell, then, to The Pogo. Good product, practically no sales. The result? The technology that made the product worthwhile has been acquired from Pogo Technology Ltd., which went into liquidation earlier this week, by Pogo Mobile Solutions (PMS) (see Mokady Jumps on Pogo).

The new Pogo company is headed up by CEO Ran Mokady, formerly the director of Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq: MSFT) feature phone platforms division. Mokady says Pogo was in need of a new direction. "The consumer marketing approach was too ambitious, but I could see an opportunity with the technology that the company had built, which is essentially missing from the rest of the industry. It's very appealing to offer a product that is ready to browse the Web wirelessly within minutes of adding a SIM card. Having to add software and configure a device and spend hours trying to get it to work is not a good user experience." So PMS "acquired the IP [intellectual property] and rehired 15 [of about 26] people from the original Pogo company," and will license the technology to existing manufacturers of wireless-enabled devices, as well as develop the instant and easy-to-use concept for applications other than browsing the Internet. "Having a product that can quickly access standard Web pages across existing mobile networks [2G and 2.5G] is appealing, but not enough. So we will be licensing that technology to any company building wireless devices today -- the likes of Hewlett-Packard Co. [NYSE: HPQ], Nokia Corp. [NYSE: NOK], any of them -- to help boost their products, but also develop technology that extends that easy-to-use capability to other applications, particularly email," Mokady tells Unstrung. "Being able to walk into a shop and walk out with a product with which you can instantly, easily, and quickly access your email wirelessly would be very appealing to people." The PDA vendors clearly offer the greatest opportunity for PMS, and at least that is shaping up to be a growth market. From global sales of about 10 million this year, "worldwide converged device (PDA/handset) shipments will reach nearly 63 million in 2006," according to the latest forecast from IDC (see IDC Optimistic on Handsets). So what is it that Mokady hopes will attract existing vendors to license his company's product? "It's a combination of technologies that deliver a great user experience. It's compression technology that moves the data faster across the network, automatic backup technology so that stored information is not lost, and IP session management software that retains sessions that have been interrupted." He is confident that manufacturers of products using Microsoft's PocketPC system will be interested. "It would offer a much better browsing experience on PocketPC devices. The current browsing experience [on those products] is not the best in the world at the moment, and they could do with some help to boost the user experience. There is a value in offering this sort of functionality, and these products need a change to help deliver some momentum in the market." That may be so, but IDC handheld device analyst Tim Mui can't see a big rush to PMS's door. "The licensing model is a good one, but there's a lot of competition in terms of browsing and email solutions now, from Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) (Nasdaq: RIMM; Toronto: RIM), Danger Inc., Nokia, Symbian Ltd., Microsoft -- it's increasingly crowded. Pogo will have a lot of catching up to do, as the vendors will be a long way down the road in terms of developing their products that include this sort of capability. To persuade a vendor to license your technology just now would be very difficult, I would think," says Mui. However, he believes Mokady will have brought some good contacts from his days at Microsoft, "and he's a clever guy. He must see an opportunity here, and he likely has strong contacts with OEMs. And there could be some good opportunities as the number of companies that produce PocketPC devices increases." Mokady is quietly optimistic, looking to develop "a small number of partner and customer relationships" in the near future. As for funding, the company is owned by the management and staff at present, and he doesn't see the need for that to change. "I am looking for revenue in the first year to fund the company. I will be spending my time with customers, not talking to VCs, though of course we are always open to suggestions," says the CEO. And despite holding a number of advisory board positions with other companies, he is "dedicating 26 hours a day, 8 days a week" to his new company. That's a neat trick in itself -- technology that enables that kind of productivity would certainly be a good revenue generator. What of Commtag Ltd., the company he left Microsoft for, and where he was CEO and president? "I am not directly involved in that company any more," he says. "I have a small shareholding but that's it." Just as well, given that there are no more hours left in his days. — Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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