IXI Mobile has added push-email and diary synch to its Ogo mobile messaging device, pitching the tiny clamshell as a far cheaper alternative to Blackberry.
So far, the device is only available in two European countries, Germany and Switzerland - three if you count Turkey - but IXI's German distributor 1&1 has agreed with Vodafone-D2 to bundle it with a flat-rate data tariff which allow users to receive as much email and surf as much as they want, all for just 9.99 Euro (£6.85) a month, plus 49.99 Euro (£34) for the device itself. If you shell out another 10 Euro a month, you get 100 text messages and can buy the Ogo itself for 1 Euro.
Tal Raeside, IXI's marketing VP, said Ogo is aimed at small business users as well as the youth market. The opportunity for mobile messaging is still huge, he said, adding: "RIM has only five million mobile email subscribers out of a cellular market of 2.2 billion and roughly 700 million email users world-wide."
Ogo's initial functions were IM (it supports AIM, MSN and Yahoo!), plus email and SMS in a single unified in-box. It now has a web browser too, and IXI has added push-email and diary sync, via a bundling deal with Synchronica for its SyncML Gateway software. The latter fixes a drawback of the US version - it couldn't import or export calendar or address book data.
Raeside denied that Ogo's support for both IM and VoIP (it can be used for voice calls too, with a Bluetooth headset) has discouraged network operators from promoting it.
"Mobile operators realise that traditional revenue sources, including voice, SMS, ringtones and downloads, are no longer growth drivers," he said. "These operators are very excited about launching Ogo as a new mobile data enhancing solution. Ogo users are active mobile messaging users - for example, Ogo IM usage significantly outpaces desktop IM usage."
"Operators have every interest in rolling out mobile email solutions to their networks, and see it as an indispensable element in their competitive strategy," said Datamonitor analyst Alaa Owaineh. "Mobile email is on the verge of mass market adoption, and the number of mobilised email accounts will explode over the next three years."
Both 1&1 and Vodafone are in the UK as well as Germany, so we may yet see the Ogo here. However, a 1&1 spokesman said there are no immediate plans for a UK launch.
If you want one, you might do better to buy from Swisscom, as its Ogo appears to have a QWERTY keyboard - the 1&1 version has a German QWERTZ layout. A flat-rate UK data tariff will cost you a bit more than seven quid a month, though - and may not allow IM or VoIP.