Txtbl: Mobile Email For The Masses?


New York’s Amol Sarva has already shaken up the wireless industry once — now he’s looking to do it again with a new venture, Txtbl. Sarva helped found and build Virgin Mobile, which in five years has grown to about 5 million subscribers nationwide.

Details are sketchy right now, but Txtbl is gearing up to release a new wireless email device early next year, which will include a full keyboard and will sell for about $100 at two large electronics stores (as WSJ has reported). It will operate on an existing cellular network, and given Sarva’s experience with Virgin Mobile, we’re guessing it will be Sprint’s.

We look forward to learning more; this is a niche that needs to be filled. More about the mobile email market after the jump.

Consumer-focused wireless email is mostly limited to expensive devices or bad add-on software.

Research In Motion has had success selling its BlackBerry service to corporations (and some consumers with its slim BlackBerry Pearl), but at around $40 per month, it’s pricey. Palm’s Treos and smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system like Samsung’s BlackJack have also caught on with some consumers. But only about 9.4 million U.S. wireless subscribers — about 4.4% — own devices with email-ideal QWERTY keypads, according to research firm M:Metrics.

Some companies have developed email software for cheap, consumer phones like Motorola’s RAZR, but they usually have limited features and bad user interfaces. Plus, thumbing a message is awkward on a numeric touchpad, and predictive typing is flawed.

Sarva’s gadget should have a large potential market — about 95% of wireless subscribers — and if service pricing is reasonable, it could be a big hit.

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