Hasbro’s Chat Now product looks like a real winner. Its an FRS type walkie-talkie in a cellphone package and with other cell phone copy-cat features such as the ability to send text messages between units, take photographs with the built-in digital camera and call between units using unique phone numbers. The communication range is listed as two miles but actual distance will likely be significantly less. The product retails for about $80 per pair but they are difficult to find and eBay sellers appear to be getting higher prices. I’ve got a few ideas for Hasbro on turn this “good” product into a “great product”.
1. replace the GMRS radio module with a Wi-Fi one
2. add SIP voice over IP (voip) client software
3. include Jeff Pulver’s Free World Dialup
The result would be a product that:
– can be used to communicate across thousands of miles (so long as each unit is in range of a wi-fi access point) instead of a few hundred to a few thousand feet
– can be used to communicate with any of the existing hundreds of thousand FWD users
– can be used as a platform to sell a wide selection of value added services to teenagers such as access to conference/chat rooms, Direct Dial in Numbers (DIDs), prepaid long distance to the public switched telephone network (PSTN), location based telecom services (such as *taxi, *pizza, *movies, etc.)
Hopefully, if Hasbro doesn’t see the value, other companies such as Linksys, D-Link, Buffalo Technology or Hawking will. Even if the $80 per pair price had to rise to $99 per unit, the result would be a sure winner.