Zipit Messenger: Is there a need for specialization in the age of convergence?

Zipit Wireless of South Carolina has introduced a new product, the Zipit Wireless Messenger 2, targeted at teenage text message senders. The company markets the device as a way to avoid the fee-based text messaging plans most wireless carriers provide by relying on WiFi hotspots (ala iPhone) and IM clients like AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger. For a $4.99 monthly fee, users can also send and receive text messages with cell phone users.

Personally, I find the product redundant for most users. Once equipped with a cell phone, few may carry around an additional device just to send messages. And for people that do adopt the product, its usefulness will depend on how often the user is inside a hotspot. I feel like a lot of the appeal of text messaging is the fact that it is entire mobile; one doesn’t need to relocate to send a message. The $149.99 Zipit Messenger 2 may not be conducive to truly ad hoc communication.

But the gadget is selling, at least in limited quantities. The Boston Globe reports sales in the tens of thousands. Whether it will reach critical mass may dependent on purchases for the upcoming holiday.

Do you think this product makes sense? Will teenagers use it as much as a phone? It appears to be in the exact opposite direction of the consumer electronics convergence craze we’ve witnessed in recent years. As other manufacturers are pushing smart phones that perform a host of different tasks, Zipit introduces a completely specialized and closed platform product. In my opinion, many DNs may find it inconvenient as it opposes to norms of constant connectedness and access to social online services. On the upside, it may reduce so-called information overload and distraction by only allowing access when within a hot spot. In that regard, it is more like an on/off utility instead of a continuous use personal tool.

Tony P

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