Why the TwitterPeek will almost certainly never take off

A New York City start-up has released the TwitterPeek, the world's first Twitter-only device. But the Peek won't do much that a good smart-phone doesn't already do.

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Today a company called Peek officially unveiled the TwitterPeek, purportedly the world's first Twitter-only device. The Peek, shown in the photo at right, is essentially a streamlined smartphone, without the voice and email capabilities – the Peek exists to tweet, and only to tweet. According to press material provided by Peek, the TwitterPeek is equipped with "always-on instant tweet delivery" and nationwide coverage that doesn't require a Wi-Fi connection.

“TwitterPeek will make it easy and affordable for everyone who doesn't have a smartphone to really enjoy Twitter on-the-go," said Peek chief Amol Sarva wrote in a statement. "Newbies will finally ‘get Twitter’ once they have TwitterPeek in hand. Even businesses that Twitter will dig TwitterPeek as a convenient way to stay connected with their customers.”

The Peek pricing scheme is pretty straight-forward: $100 gets you the device, in blue or in red, and six months of free service. The plan is $8 a month after that. Alternatively, folks convinced they will totally love the TwitterPeek can fork over $200 for a lifetime plan, with no monthly charges. The device comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, and a 1-year manufacturers warranty.

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So what are the odds that the TwitterPeek will take off? Pretty low. Our math, by the way, has nothing to do with the aesthetic feel of the TwitterPeek. (By all accounts, the full QWERTY keyboard and click wheel work flawlessly, and the color screen sparkles.) Instead, our big issue with the Peek is functional. This device fills a niche that not many people need filled.

Consider the average Twitter aficionado. He tweets from his laptop, and when he's not in front of his computer, he tweets from his smartphone. When he's using the latter platform, he gets help from a third-party application such as TwitterFon, which pulls in information from the feeds of his Twitter pals. In fact, between his laptop and his phone, he doesn't have much need for a third device – everything, from email to his address book, is synced between his desktop and his mobile.

For this hypothetical user, where does the TwitterPeek fit? Presumably, he's not going to fork over a hundred bucks just to carry another plastic platform in his pants pocket. In fact, we're moving away from a time when we had to shuffle between phones and laptops and desktops. Netbooks are shrinking; smartphones can do more. As Monitor staffer Gregory Lamb has noted, laptops and netbooks could eventually reach a convergence point, and become one and the same.

Let's play devil's advocate for a second, and assume that the TwitterPeek might appeal to a younger user, with less disposable income. In this scenario, the price is the major draw: $200 for unlimited use, or $100 for six-months and the occasional top-up. It's pretty cheap, yes. But wouldn't a younger user be better served by a cheap smartphone with a whole lot of social networking functionality? Even if such phones cost $50 to $100 a month for service – something out of reach for high schoolers – they offers a lot of features that mom and dad will appreciate and the TwitterPeek can't match.

For instance, T-Mobile just rolled out the Motorola Cliq, which it is marketing as a "social fanatic’s dream.” In a statement timed to coincide with the release of the Cliq, Motorola noted that the phone pulls data from “Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Gmail, work and personal email,” and “automatically delivered to the home screen of the Cliq in easy-to-view streams.”

The Cliq currently retails for $199, with a two-year contract. Assuming that a user will need a regular phone along with the TwitterPeek, wouldn't he or she be better served by just buying the Cliq? That way, they'd get a voice plan, and Internet access, and close to the same quality of Twitter access as the TwitterPeek owner.

But hey, we could be totally off-base here. Let us know. Drop a line on Twitter or in the comments section below.

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