Singapore based VelvetPuffin is launching a mobile/desktop social networking platform today. The new product consists of a profile site, desktop IM client, and mobile client synchronized by their parent company’s (Radix) server side software. The motivation behind the project was to create a consistent experience across these three common social mediums missing from the mobile browser versions of a lot of the other social networking services.
Together, the two clients let you stay continuously connected to the social network, chatting, or sharing photos and video between the mobile and desktop clients instantly. The two clients also connect to the Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN IM networks, but provides enhanced content for VelvetPuffin members. Members clients include photo and video galleries, blog, and polling widgets. When content is added to your profile, it pushes notifications to your VelvetPuffin friends, and also to the website if the content is public. Apart from VelvetPuffin videos and photos, users can also find and view Flickr photos, and YouTube, Google, and MetaCafe videos on their website or phone.
While I find an “always on” social network compelling, the major drawback of VelvetPuffin is their two required downloads (desktop and mobile), a tough sell for consumers now accustomed to website based applications. I don’t think that a superior mobile experience will be enough to get users to jump on board en masse.
A lot of companies have been trying to crack open the mobile sector in the US, and for good reason, there are over 2.6 billion mobile subscribers worldwide. SK Telecom’s Helio has been throwing cash at the problem ($440 million) for the past year and hopes to make it to 100K subscribers by the second quarter this year (in a conspicuously missing press release they hope to be at 3.3 million by 2009). That’s with MySpace integration. Amp’d Mobile, with it’s $260 million financing and 100K subscribers, has been slugging away at the mobile social networking problem along with Boost’s Loopt friend locator. Amp’d launched in December of 2005. Boost launched it’s friend locator last September, with their last report boasting an impressive 100K of Boost’s over 3 million subscribers. VelvetPuffin has $10 million in financing, but is also rumored to have some upcoming carrier deals.