Pure Devices, a new startup based in Seattle, this week launched its Kickstarter project to fund its first product, a table top touchscreen device that’s designed to make web-enabled tech as easy to use as possible for as broad an audience as possible. There have been a number of devices aimed at demographics that haven’t traditionally been comfortable with tech, including a recent smartphone from Swedish firm Doro. Founder Eugene Luskin got the idea for Pure Devices from simplifying his grandmother’s TV remote control with a simple paper template fitted over its face that limited it to essential functions; Pure Devices wants to accomplish something similar for the web, using cloud-based tech behind the scenes to make sure things run smoothly.
“Our value proposition and focus are about customer experience,” Luskin explained in an interview. “The device is only one element of our offering. The main differentiation factor is that, in our eco-system, pretty much everything happens in the virtual machines running on the network of distributed servers, also known as ‘cloud,’ so by using the cloud we provide an end-to-end experience for the user, built around just a few basic needs that (based on many years of our experience) the majority of people have at home.” Pure Devices will provide simplified access to popular web services and features, like Netflix and Amazon, with an experience targeted at senior citizens.
For Pure Devices, which is designed specifically with people who have little to know technological expertise in mind, the promise of simplified computing promised by devices like Apple’s iPad (which has spawned many an anecdotal story about satisfied senior users) doesn’t go far enough. The answer, according to Luskin, is to try and make the chance of someone running into an experience-ending problem as little as possible, and there’s a different standard for that when you’re talking about a general purpose device like the iPad.
“For technology illiterate people, those devices are still providing lots of opportunities to make mistakes and get the device into the state that a support call becomes inevitable,” he said. “No matter how simple the age-targeted application would be, it’s still installed on a pretty complicated device, so the resulting system has all the same problems. In our case, because nothing happens on the device and the device itself cannot be changed, we can guarantee a consistent user experience and very efficient support.”
Pure Devices will look to offer its devices at a low cost, making little from the sale of hardware, and will instead pursue revenue mostly from a small subscription fee of less than $10 for access to its services. The company went to Kickstarter to raise startup capital because according to Luskin, it’s the best way for the startup to maintain control over their own designs and devices, instead of having to make concessions to outside investors and rush a “good enough” product to market.
Plenty of companies have tried to pursue this market, but no one yet has accomplished the goal of making something that really has mass enough appeal to become a hit in its own right in terms of bringing tech to non-tech savvy people. Pure Devices has the advantage of readily available, dependable cloud-based tech, but it needs to prove whether even that will be accessible enough to help the startup achieve its goals.