Sony Corp.'s Mylo, a wireless messaging gadget largely ignored by its college-aged target audience, is being updated to address some of its shortcomings, the company announced Sunday.
Sony launched the original Mylo in September 2006. It combined a small color screen with a full-alphabet keyboard and allowed users to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots to use messaging programs from Yahoo Inc. and eBay Inc.'s Skype. There was also a rudimentary Web browser.
But the device did not support the most popular messaging program in the U.S., AOL Instant Messenger. And its Web browser couldn't play Flash movies, making YouTube inaccessible.
Sony is addressing both those problems in the Mylo COM-2, which goes on sale this month for about $300. It is also increasing the screen resolution to 800 by 480 pixels and building in a camera.
The new design likely faces a continuing uphill battle in convincing consumers who already have cell phones to get another portable communications gadget, especially one that works only in hotspots.
Mylo COM-2 users will have free access to commercial hotspots in the Wayport network, including more than 9,000 McDonald's restaurants, until the end of 2010.
Phil Boyle, the product manager for the Mylo, said the new device is aimed at 14- to 18-year-olds, not the 18- to 22-year-old target market of the original Mylo. Despite this, its design is more angular and mature-looking than its bulbous predecessor.
"Kids don't want products that look like they're for kids," said Sony spokeswoman Jenny Mehlow.
Mylo users can place calls to phones for a per-minute fee by using the SkypeOut feature of Skype.
The company behind a competing Wi-Fi messaging gadget, the Zipit Wireless Messenger 2, announced a feature in December that also partly bridges the gap with the cell phone — a $4.99-per-month plan that allows users to send and receive cell-phone text messages.