Velvet Puffin: the next MySpace?
By Aaron Tan, ZDNet Asia
SINGAPORE–Velvet Puffin could well be the next MySpace, if its creators have their way.
Launched on Monday 5th March 2007 by Singapore-based mobile software provider Radixs, Velvet Puffin is a free integrated online service that marries social networking and instant messaging, says Radixs co-founder and CEO R. Chandrasekar.
Users can download the PC and cell phone clients and get the same social networking experience via a mobile phone or desktop computer. They can chat over multiple IM networks such as MSN and Yahoo, share photos and videos, as well as create and update their blogs over either platform.
Most of Velvet Puffin features, except IM chats, can be accessed via its Web site, though a software client will provide a better user experience, according to Chandrasekar.
“The social networking experience you get on the mobile phone is stripped down in nature–and the experience is poor,” he explained. “Velvet Puffin is ‘social networking meets instant messaging’…[where] we’re using instant messaging environments to invoke social networking,” he added.
Jill Aldort, senior analyst at the Yankee Group, said in a statement: “Velvet Puffin breaks down the ‘walled garden’ experience that has traditionally characterized consumers’ mobile Web and community experiences.
“The application provides a clean, user-friendly and totally functional interface for IM, as well as [for] sharing user-generated content across the PC and the mobile phone,” Aldort added.
Until now, Chandrasekar noted, other sites have attempted to capture single features of desktop-based social networking sites on the mobile platform. By aggregating all features associated with social networking, Radixs hopes to create a “holistic” mobile social networking experience.
For example, he added, Velvet Puffin’s Java-based mobile client allows users to search and view all videos available from YouTube on their handsets–a subscription-based service that has only been available to Verizon Wireless customers in the United States since last December.
Chandrasekar says Radixs is able to stream YouTube videos to Velvet Puffin users because the publicly available videos are not owned by YouTube. The streaming technology is based on Radixs’ Motion Experience Interface (MXI) operating system that allows existing full-fledged desktop applications to run on mobile devices without any source code redevelopment.
According to Chandrasekar, MXI-based devices were to be launched by 2005 but the deal with a handset manufacturer fell through earlier that year after both companies disagreed on the “go-to-market” strategy.
“Operators were willing to work with us, but things didn’t move on due to the lack of devices,” he said. “We then decided to go client-agnostic.”
Because it is offered as a free service, Chandrasekar said some revenues will be generated from contextual advertisements that will be introduced on both Velvet Puffin desktop and mobile clients. He assured users, however, that the ads will not be intrusive in nature.
Radixs will also partner mobile operators, which will distribute Velvet Puffin’s software, Chandrasekar said, adding that the company will receive a cut of operators’ data revenue generated from the Velvet Puffin service. He said operator partnerships will be announced in due course.
“More importantly, they will provide users with price packages that include the Velvet Puffin service,” he added.
For now, however, Chandrasekar does not expect the bulk of the revenues to come from deals with mobile operators. “The direct model will still drive revenues in the shorter term because when you work with one operator, [the partnership] is only in a particular country with limited numbers of subscribers,” he said.
“But, within the next 12 to 18 months, that will change as we strike deals with more operators,” he revealed.
Chandrasekar was unable to reveal how much was spent on developing Velvet Puffin, but noted that Radixs had received US$10 million in funding from investors for developing MXI.
Source: ZDNET Asia