Instant messaging is hard to do well on a mobile device. Connections drop, battery life is limited, the screen is small, and it's hard to have more than one conversation at a time.
These are the problems that Palringo set out to solve about two years ago. Its free service, which launched last spring, works on any phone powered by Java, Symbian, and Windows Mobile as well as the iPhone and BlackBerry platforms. On top of what you'd expect from IM, Palringo has added push-to-talk capability (for those times when texting is inappropriate, like, say, crossing a busy intersection), photo sharing, and location-aware services. The program is on track to have one million users by the end of the year, in 70 countries.
Palringo's biggest challenge is educating consumers about the value of IM on a cell phone. "We're not going to wean people off SMS," says Kerry Ritz, Palringo's CEO. "We're an alternative." Another concern is the ease of use of the downloading process, as dictated by the carriers. App stores such as Apple's have revolutionized the market for mobile add-ons, making it easy to add something in new in two clicks. But most other platforms have a long way to go to match Apple.
Next Wednesday, November 12, an impressive gathering of startups and mobile-industry poohbahs -- everyone from major VCs from firms such as Kleiner Perkins to executives from companies such as T-Mobile, AT&T, CBS, Verizon, Alltel, Comcast, Nokia, Microsoft, and R/GA -- will meet in Mountain View, California, to choose America's Next Top Mobile Startup at Under the Radar. As a moderator, I will be previewing the event by providing snapshots of the companies whose sessions I am facilitating