New social gadget to debut at Spike

Digital Standard, Inc. will host a Saki launch party at Spike in Mockingbird Station Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m. After pushing it back several times, the company released what spokespeople call a first-of-its-kind technology Monday when they launched Sakimobile.com, a Web site from which mobile phone users may download Saki mobile software to a PDA or smart phone.

For $9.99 a month, Saki promises elements of profile-based networking, instant messaging and productivity together in a user-friendly package. Much like Facebook.com or Myspace.com, Saki allows members to create and search profiles and send messages to other members. While the profiles are currently not as detailed as some others, Alex Caine, Digital Standard, Inc.’s special events manager, said the company plans to continually improve features and add content. He said members will receive updates as improvements become available.

The monthly fee raises a couple of red flags, since most of the features are available free through various programs. However, they are separate programs and do not always format to the smaller mobile device screen. Wendi Tinkle, Digital Standard, Inc.’s media relations manager, said the company offers a finder’s fee of sorts. They will pay members $25 per new member contract gained from their referrals. This takes a bit of the sting off the price.

Information on Saki is stored on a double firewall server rather than in the mobile device. This may sound like double coverage, but it allows users to log in from any computer to access their information. This also prevents data loss should a device become lost or broken. Quick-saving profiles to a mobile device is simple.

Caine said security was a high priority for Digital Standard, Inc. Dedicated security measures include 128 bit encryption and off site servers, in case the server at the main office should become unavailable.

Productivity features include the ability to view multiple pre-existing e-mail accounts through Saki plus a Sakimobile.com e-mail address. Members can check business and personal accounts from one device. And, Caine said Saki will format the e-mails to the smaller screen, eliminating the need to constantly scroll right.

Moveable widgets – on screen informational icons – pull RSS feeds for members to access anything from weather to stock quotes to obscure websites. As long as it has an RSS feed, it can go through Saki to the mobile device.

Caine said Saki mobile is intended to be a seamless platform through which new and starting professionals can network, communicate or plan events. Since it is a software package, Saki works with any phone carrier providing a data plan. The service can go through wi-fi or GPRS, so members can access information from anywhere they have either type of signal. And, Tinkle points that the service goes through data plans, so playing with Saki should not eat through cell phone minutes.

According to Ms. Tinkle, the company’s target audience includes college students and young professionals on the move – people who work hard and appreciate the ability to network and have fun with their devices.

Saki is a separate program designed to work on the Windows Mobile platform, so it should not interfere with or replace any other programs in use.

The company also offers a free trial PC version. This version is easy to use, but takes a little while to navigate. In testing the instant message functionality, some messages went through and others made the noise, but did not appear. Given that this is a new technology released by a new company, there do not appear to be many release bugs.

There is no easily identifiable upgrade button, so adding the mobile package currently requires a call to customer support. Saki will not run on a Mac.

In Summary:

Saki pros include a seamless application incorporating the best of productivity and social software; exclusivity: Only Saki clients have access to Saki clients; outside information storage, so everything is retrievable if a phone breaks; $25 per person finder’s fee; first-of-its-kind software.

Saki cons include a $9.99 per month fee for basic service; exclusivity: Only Saki clients have access to Saki clients; no Mac access; a few new product glitches.

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