O2 is branching out from phones with a new device for the home which it claims will help families keep track of each other's schedules and other activities.
Available from April, the O2 Joggler is a device with a 7in touch-screen designed to sit on a table or desk. Its chief function is a calendar, showing at-a-glance what everyone in the family is doing, and it can send text message reminders for events to the phones of family members.
In addition, it can show photos, play music and video content, and link to news, traffic and weather information.
"Family life is more hectic than ever these days. We are all having to do more, and trying to cram about 36 hours into the day," said O2's head of families, Sharon Pickford.
Customers had told O2 that they wanted the firm to help them "save money, get rid of hassle, and create time to spend together", according to Pickford, and the firm has come up with three new products: the Joggler; an online O2 Calendar; and a new bolt-on package for families.
Unusually, the Joggler does not connect to O2's cellular network, but to a home network router via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The calendar is designed to be easy to use, described by Pickford as "like an early learning version" of the calendar tools found in groupware packages such as Microsoft's Outlook.
Family members can key in appointments, reminders for birthdays and other information using the touch screen, or from anywhere via the web-based O2 Calendar, which is also available as a standalone service. This enables users to check their family calendar even when at their office PC, Pickford explained.
The Joggler will send reminders to family members' phones via SMS at the appropriate time, but only to handsets on O2's network. "We want to bring customers to our network," said Pickford.
O2 is considering adding support for email reminders in the future. Also in the pipeline is an internet radio player, and the ability for customers to send up to 50 free text messages per month from the Joggler.
The device uses its internet connection to receive news feeds from Sky, a weather feed, and traffic information from Trafficmaster.
It also doubles as a media player capable of showing digital photos and videos, and playing music. This can be loaded into the Joggler's 1GB of memory via a USB Flash drive, or streamed over the network from a Windows PC for more tech-savvy users.
"In the long term, we would like to work with content providers to get previews of 'U' certificate movies in feeds to Joggler," said Pickford. However, the device does not support a browser for surfing the web.
The Joggler will be available in O2's online and retail stores for £149.99.
Due in May is another family-friendly product, a new bolt-on that lets one O2 subscriber pay a monthly fee allowing a group of up to five family members to make unlimited free voice calls, MMS and text messages between other members of the group, provided they are all on O2. Pricing has yet to be disclosed.
UPDATE: O2 has asked us to clarify that while reminders can only be sent from Joggler to phone numbers on the O2 network, the forthcoming ability to send 50 free text messages per month will let customers send messages to other networks.
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