The Peek Bites The Dust

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You may remember the Peek, a device that showed up back in 2008 (so long ago, now!) offering nothing but email. That’s right, nothing but email in an age when smartphones were already becoming popular, and the iPhone was changing the way people thought about interacting with their data.

In a way, it was genius: limiting the service and the device made it easy to explain and simple to use. It does email, period. An interesting tack, and one that kept them rolling for a few years, but alas, Peek is finally going to take the big sleep.

Despite revising the hardware and switching up the pricing, the Peek couldn’t maintain relevance in the face of smartphones and tablets. There was always the question of whether it was a legitimate market at all, but I object to that objection. I think it’s a brilliant proposition, and one many people found useful. But you just can’t fight progress, and while phones and tablets got more capable, they also got easier to use.

Ironically, it might have been trying to compete that made the Peek at last irrelevant. The people who liked it didn’t think of it as a less-capable smartphone, but as a single-purpose device, like a fork or a measuring tape. That value proposition, focus, is something we’re seeing in practice in single-purpose sites like Imgur and so on. But the philosophy of the mobile phone as Swiss army knife has taken over in the hardware field, so devices like the Peek got left behind.

The Verge talked to the CEO, and he said that there are a few thousand devices lying around in warehouses, and he’d like to put them into the hands of interested hackers. The Peek 9 was a perfectly workable piece of hardware, though not particularly powerful, but perhaps it could be made into something interesting or useful by a little creative coding. Head over there for more info.

Update: It should be noted that this isn’t the end for Peek the company, only Peek the service and line of devices. Peek Inc actually just closed a big funding round to fuel its work bringing smartphone-type software to low-cost mobile devices. We’ll report more on that as the story develops.