Who In Their Right Mind Would Buy a Peek 9?S

Try not to get too excited, guys, but Peek 9 is here. It's not as worthless as TwitterPeek, but that's vastly different from being worthwhile. Honest question: who in blue blazes buys these things? How does Peek stay in business?

Here's the full Peek 9 feature rundown, much of which has been available since last fall: email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, Maps (but no GPS), Weather, Outlook and Exchange (with AutoSync), RSS, Word and PDF support. Oh, something called Peektop Apps, for which I'm not holding my breath. All told, that's not terrible! But "not terrible" doesn't make Peek 9 any way ownable.

The Peek 9 is the dumbest smartphone you've ever met. Not only does it have incredibly limited functionality compared to anything with a robust operating system, it's also literally dumb, as in mute, as in doesn't make any calls. It's designed to be a complementary device, except that what it's complementing—a phone—can do all of the things that Peek 9 can do, better. All for the privilege, you'll pay $70 for the device plus $20/month for the service.

Smartphone comparison not fair? Fine. Put it up against the iPod Touch, then. More expensive hardware, sure, but that evens out after a few months of Peek service plan, before you even begin to factor in how much more you can do with an iPod Touch. You can even find unlocked feature phones for a little over a hundred bucks.

The point isn't that the Peek 9 is trying to be these things and failing. It's clearly trying to carve out its own niche, trying to find a sweet spot of people who only want the very basic connectivity features—minus calls—of a contemporary phone. What I'm saying is that I don't think that sweet spot exists, at least not in large enough numbers to create a viable business.

But year after year, Peek continues to exist. So who's buying? A couple of feature descriptions give a pretty clear hint of who Peek thinks its customers should be: businesses that have people "in the field." PeekMaps may not have GPS—which, ugh—but it does act as a handy tracking device to make sure your sales guy isn't taking a pit stop at the Bennigans bar. The inclusion of Exchange ActiveSync is critical for enterprise, along with PDF and DOC support. And those Peektop Apps let you "remotely build and deploy custom device interfaces that make ordering, surveying, or reporting dead-simple." So, all good for SMB, right?

Well... maybe? But if you want a device that's laser-focused on productivity, why are Facebook and Twitter prominent selling points? Why include RSS? Peek 9 packs in all the distractions of a smartphone without any of the manifold advantages of, say, a browser. Or the ability to call back to the main office. On top of which, the majority of times I actually use my phone to call someone, it's work-related. Relationship building and client services are still done primarily over the phone, not text and email.

Maybe I just don't get it. Maybe someday we'll all have a Peek clipped to our belt loops. Today, though? I've never seen a Peek in the wild. I don't expect I ever will. I'm guessing that some venture capitalist somewhere is throwing a lot of money down the Peek drain, with promises of more features keeping the spigot open. But "slightly better" doesn't mean "good," and it's only a matter of time until we're all over this Peek condition for good. [Peek]