Hardware Startup Targets Under-served Android Users - 1

{{ story.headline }}

{{ story.subheading }}

{{ story.timestamp }}

Hardware Startup Targets Under-served Android Users - 1
In a world flush with Apple products, one local startup is looking to fill the void in the high-end Android accessories market.

Jody Forehand and Rafi Holtzman have worked together for 18 years—they met at Silicon Valley's Electronics for Imaging, Inc. (EFI) The two are now continuing their teamwork from opposite sides of the U.S. Living in Carrboro, N.C. and California, respectively, the duo is working together to create Nextand, a wireless charging stand for the Nexus 7 tablet.

They hope Nextand will be the first of many high-end Android accessories to come from their new company Original3.

Holtzman, originally from Israel, attended the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and began working for EFI in the early 90s. During the company's early stages, EFI created color management software, but switched over to hardware. One of its initial printers, Fiery, helped make the short-run color printing industry possible.

Forehand obtained her undergraduate degree in politics and Russian studies from Princeton University. She lived in Russia for a year before returning to earn a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Texas-Austin. She wrote her thesis on U.S. policy towards the semiconductor industry. Forehand met EFI's CEO on a research trip with her husband and he offered her a job. EFI placed her on Holtzman's product planning team and "skunkworks" group.

"We were working on basically all the crazy projects EFI was doing," she says. "Getting everything specced out, prototyped and looking if there was a market for it."

Hardware Startup Targets Under-served Android Users - 2
In the years since they met, Forehand and Holtzman helped to spin out EFI's eBeam business (interactive whiteboards) into a separate company called Luidia. Both left there in 2013, the year it was sold, and immediately began work on Nextand. Holtzman used TechShop facilities in his hometown to create the prototypes.

Now, they're raising $15,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to bring the project to life. They've raised $1,389 with 20 days left to go, and successful or not, they will tweak the design and launch the product in several months.

The big question is whether the Android market will welcome this charging device.

Data would suggest yes. According to a recent TechRepublic story, Apple's revenue is three to five times more than its competitor's. But Google's Android revenue tends to be more stable due to its ad-based rather than retail-based income.

Google also dominates in market share, with 77.8 percent of the worldwide market in the fourth quarter of 2013. According to a 2013 study by Strategy Analytics, Google's Android tablet market shipped 34.6 million units, up from 18.5 million units the previous year.

"The news is a little less cheery on Apple's side of the OS wars, with shipments dipping from 17 million to 14.6 million units, decreasing its marketshare to 28.3 percent," the report's authors wrote.

Unlike Apple though, Android—because it is open-source software—has many more device options. Forehand said this could be one factor contributing to the lack of high-end Android accessories.

"Apple is very closed with a very consistent and very high quality user experience—fewer things can go wrong," she says. "They tend to be very stable and not crash."

"Android on the other hand, is an open environment," Forehand says. "There are a lot of different flavors of Android and manufacturers try to differentiate their products."

Forehand speculates that the vast number of products powered by Android may be daunting to a product development company. It's hard to know which ones will be bestsellers and worthy of their own accessories, in such a crowded marketplace.

The Original3 team started with the Nexus 7 because of positive product reviews and general acceptance of it as an alternative to the iPad. They also saw an opening in the market—existing Nexus charging pads were powered by a wireless charging standard they found difficult to use.

The Nextand prototype has a sleek design featuring a bamboo base and acrylic insert. The stand allows the tablet to be displayed in portrait or landscape view, making it easy for users to continue using their tablet while it charges. It will cost between $50 and $70.

"Folks are used to nicely designed products, so we came up with this design," Forehand says. "There's not that much out there for specific Android hardware, so you wind up with a lot of accessories that are kinda clunky and ugly."

Forehand has had all good experiences with her Nexus 7 and so she's confident now is the right time for Nextand and Original3's future products to revolutionize the Android accessory market.