Pogo cuts off wireless handheld business

The UK start-up is to stop making its converged PDA devices, which received praise from reviewers but couldn't rack up sufficient sales

Pogo Technology, which made a combined PDA-mobile phone that was garnering rave reviews when competitors such as the Handspring Treo and the Orange SPV were still on the drawing boards, is to wind down its handheld computer business because of low sales.

Pogo was forced into liquidation in November, and a new company -- Pogo Mobile Solutions -- was formed to purchase Pogo's proprietary technology assets, and completed the purchase late last week. Ran Mokady, a former Microsoft director of feature phone platforms, will head the new company, which will focus on licensing Pogo's wireless Web browsing platform.

For the time being, Pogo will continue to sell the remaining stocks of the device, but its new business model will be based on licensing its technology to wireless network operators, equipment or design manufacturers and other service providers. The Pogo Distributed Architecture is an end-to-end platform that stores personal information on a remote server and includes compression technology for speeding up data transfer over a GSM or GPRS connection.

"Our technology enables a simple to use, connected, PDA experience at mobile phone prices," said Mokady in a statement. "My aim has always been to protect end users from the complexity of the technology behind mobile data devices."

When the Pogo device launched last year, ZDNet UK's review praised its relatively large, clear colour screen, fast Web browsing over a GSM connection and its use of Macromedia's ubiquitous Flash technology in the device's user interface and Web browser.

The device was initially launched exclusively in Carphone Warehouse outlets, but has sold only a few hundred units, according to Mokady, who said it was impossible for a small company to compete with the likes of Nokia, Handspring and Microsoft.

Stephen Wolff and Matthew Woolf, former Pogo executives, will join the new company as commercial director and chief technology officer. Fifteen of the original hardware and software engineers will also work for Pogo Mobile Solutions.

Mokady said he was optimistic that the technology licensing model would prove more successful and that the handheld market would bounce back, citing an IDC forecast that said converged PDA mobile phones would reach 63 million sales within five years.

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