Time to modu

modudov.jpg

Dov hit the ground running with modu this last week in Barcelona. In no time modu was all over internet hitting critical mass on the buzz meter. Clearly modu’s PR agency did its part with the teaser video and its press contacts. Something like 900 articles around the world have already appeared on modu. Not bad for a week and a half.

While the buzz is nice, something more substantial also seems to be afoot.

According to the best of sources, modu was overwhelmed at the Mobile World Congress. 5 meeting rooms weren’t enough as ad hoc meetings were held in the hallways outside. The level of interest from operators (the biggest ones), tier one CE manufacturers and variety of potential partners kept the modu team busy.

So what is all the excitement all about?

Meet modu

I highly recommend taking a peek at modu’s site– redesigned/ relaunched this last week. Nice job.

My original plan was to write my own summary of modu and its ecosystem, but have decided to skip that task. modu has already done a pretty good job. No need to reinvent the wheel. Also the modu spin is interesting. modu according to modu:

At the heart of the modu ecosystem is modu – a tiny, sleek & sophisticated mobile phone.

modu.jpg

Slip modu into a variety of stylishly designed modu jackets to create a new look and provide added functionality that will instantly shape and reshape the way you communicate.

modu also has many mates – modu-enabled consumer electronic devices such as Personal Music Players, Digital Cameras or DECT Phones. Slip modu into modu mates to enhance your ability to quickly and easily communicate and share information with others.

modu jackets – what’s your modu?

You can switch modu jackets as often as you like according to your changing lifestyle and personal expression needs – transforming modu from a stylish phone or business tool to a workout companion or a powerful entertainment system. It’s as easy as slipping modu in and out.

modujacket.jpg

modu allows you to have impact and make a dynamic fashion statement. modu jackets come custom branded with your favorite fashion brands, movies or music artists – all pre-loaded with exclusive content and a unique UI. Simply walk into your favorite store and pick up a new modu jacket to express your passions and interests. With modu, there are no boundaries to the number of unique and affordable phones available for you to enjoy.

All modu jackets are universally interchangeable, allowing you to swap modu jackets with friends. Or buy one as a gift for the favorite people in your life – allowing them to enjoy a brand new communication experience and to think of you every time they pick up the phone.

modu mates

modu mates let the revolution of a connected world to enter your everyday life. modu strives to become the standard communications and personalization enabler to any consumer electronics device. You can slip modu into your digital camera to enable instant sharing of photos with your modu contact list, into a DECT phone to enable land-mobile call consolidation, or into a digital picture frame to view pictures stored on your modu. The connections are boundless. Your ability to share, interact and communicate with the world is now possible with modu.

modu Wheelings, Dealings and Schemings

modu already has strategic partnerships with Telecom Italia’s mobile division TIM, BeeLine (Vimpelcom) of Russia, and Cellcom of Israel. modu products are expected to be available through these mobile network operators in Q4, 2008.

The modu (phone) itself will be manufactured by Foxconn and will include chips from Texas Instruments. It is GSM quad-band, weighs 1.5 ounces, is 0.3 inches thick and will have 1GB of flash memory (or up to 16 GB at a carrier’s request.) On its own (without jackets etc) modu has made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s lightest phone, weighing just 40.1g.

modu is said to be working with Magellan Navigation and Blaupunkt for car multimedia and navigational products (mates.)

Universal Music is looking at developing music-geared jackets for the phone.

The long term road map for modu starts with 2.5G and then moves to 3.5G and WiMAX.

Some of the modu articles mention SanDisk as a company with an agreement to develop products for modu. If this is true and I suspect it is, I’m guessing that some of the Sansa’s will be modu-enabled in 2009.

modu has raised $20M in seed money from Dov, SanDisk and two venture capitalists: Gemini and Genesis. modu reportedly hopes to secure another $100 million in funding this year, followed by an IPO in 2009 which could raise another $250 million to $350 million. In 2010, the company hopes to break even and turn a small profit.

modu is predicting $1 billion in revenue for 2011 for modu, its jackets, and mates.

A short History of modu

Dov’s concept of a modular phone was created in 2002 at msystems. The idea wasn’t pursued because msystems grew so quickly. When msystems was sold to SanDisk in 2006, Dov had time to revisit the idea.

Dov established modu [as “InFone”] in early 2007 with $5M of his own money. The InFone office at Atir Yeda 17 opened in February 2007 with 8 employees and 4 directors. By the end of 2007, InFone had grown to 100 employees and had moved into new, larger offices.

As the company grew, it became clear that the name “InFone” wasn’t quite right and the search for a new name began. The goal was to find a name that could work as both a corporate name as well as a product name; it had to be appropriate for a modular phone; and it needed to be memorable and not too hard to pronounce. By December “InFone” had become “modu.”

modulogo.jpg

In the modu logo above, the green oval stands for the “heart” or basic modu phone device. The black surrounding ring is symbolic of the modu jacket, mate, eco-system or host.

The slogan or by-line: “make new connections” has a number of connotations. Most importantly “connections” implies “communications.”

modu speculation

So does modu have what it takes?

The technorati seem to be taking a wait and see attitude. On the one hand, modu is intriguing– an interesting concept with great potential. Others find it cool, but flawed.

Personally, I’m in the intrigued category. Dov seems to be one of those curious people who are both dreamers and pragmatists. I find it most interesting to watch (and hopefully profit- eventually) as dreams coalesce into real products.

modu seems like such a simple idea. At the same time, simplicity shouldn’t be underestimated. modu could be revolutionary and paradigm-shifting, arriving at the tipping point as mobile computing overtakes fixed computing as the dominate computing platform.

The mobile phone as we know it today doesn’t have to be an all-in-one device. modu, as introduced, is likely just the beginning of the evolution of the form factor.

Dov is thinking big. He hopes to grow modu into one of the five leaders in the cell phone market. Getting there is going to take more than clever modu fashion-jackets. I suspect Dov has plans within plans. modu should be an interesting story to watch.

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4 Responses to Time to modu

  1. shlomi says:

    Hi Savo,

    A new printed financial newspaper in Israel that was launched this morning says Modu and GOOG are talking following 3GSM. http://www.calcalist.co.il/index.asp (Hebrew)

  2. Morgan Bucks says:

    A big easy to use proprietory enhanced sim card.

  3. savolainen says:

    Hey Morgan Bucks,

    Agree.

    When I started out this modu post, the plan was to touch more on modu’s concept and the potential, or lack thereof. There was so much to cover that I decided to just try for a quick summary snapshot and wait til later for the more speculative angles.

    Conceptually my first impression is that modu is a MegaSIM crossed with a smart DOK with phone functionality. Reminds me a bit of the DOK modu-like product which never made it to market.

    Basically it was a “heart” of a DOK which inserted into various jackets provided different functionalities, such as music etc. As I recall this product was rumored (with prototypes) in the same timeframe that the concept of modu was born: 2002/2003.

    As is often the case, when I try to post on a particular subject, time runs out before I get to many aspects I initially was hoping to cover. What I have learned so far on this blog is not to try to do it all at once. Weeks slip away and there is time to get to stuff eventually.

    Another important angle is that from what I gather, modu isn’t shooting to compete head-to-head with the smart phones. Rather the target market is a step below.

    This makes a lot of sense and opens up many opportunities especially in emerging markets. Still Dov has his work cut out. For modu to be a success, it has to reach a critical mass. That said, these are the gold-rush days in the mobile market. Huge and exploding, Dov has a real shot, in my opinion. Not a given, though.

    Find it remarkable that he has brought modu this far in so short a time starting with only $5M of his own money.

    As Shlomi posted, GOOG has been rumored to be making nice. Am not sure how that would work, but don’t doubt that at least initial overtures have been made.

    In the long run believe Dov has schemes far beyond the jackets thing.

    BTW. Got lost in x4 patents this last weekend and ran out of time. Will try to finish the Stratosphere/ x4 post on Sunday.

    I might have to move to a two-week schedule for posts, at least for the next several months.

    Best,
    Savo

  4. A sandisk tracker says:

    Why would someone like Sandisk invest in Modu unless they were getting into the business (of phones and music players themselves)? In my opinion Modu can never make a cheap enough device, because of the additional hardware their detachable configurations need. consumers will rather opt for the best non-modular device in its category – camera, phone, music player, video player

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