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TapRoot gives up on Walking Hotspot subs

Tries flat-rate temptation

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

TapRoot, creator of the Walking Hotspot, has given up trying to take subscriptions or do deals with network operators in favour of simply charging punters $25 for the product.

Walking Hotspot turns a Symbian or Windows Mobile handset into a Wi-Fi access point, allowing a Wi-Fi-equipped laptop to access the internet over the phone's 3G connection as easily as accessing a hotspot. The software has been in beta for a while, but this means a search for a business model rather than technical testing.

TapRoot's original idea was to sell the software to handset manufacturers or network operators, but getting into handsets that way is really tough. Instead the company tried a subscription model, which is still supported at $7 a month, but punters balked at that, so now it's just charging $25 for installation on one handset.

Part of the motivation in selling to network operators was to avoid annoying them. Using Walking Hotspot is against the terms and conditions of several operators' unlimited data tariffs, and the TapRoot was concerned that operators would block their customers - though that would present a considerable technical challenge. In reality it hasn't happened. The operators have either failed to notice, or the scale of usage isn't a concern to them for the moment at least.

Competitor JuikuSpot set itself up as a disruptive technology designed to annoy the network operators. That's selling for $20 at the moment - discounted from $33 - for a similar handset-lifetime deal. JuikuSpot though is S60 only and we've had more success using Walking Hotspot. Both applications hammer the battery pretty badly.

Walking Hotspot runs on S60 and Windows Mobile devices - those equipped with Wi-Fi. The company would love to make a version for RIM and the iPhone, but tells us that the development kits for those devices don't provide the kind of low-level radio access they need - even assuming that Apple would sanction such an application. ®

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