Smartphone Users Get Bigger Display and Keyboard from Redfly

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Redfly Mobile Companion from Celio provides smartphone users with sore thumbs and squinting eyes just the relief they need -- a bigger keyboard and display that hooks up to their smartphones in a laptop form factor. Now the company is recruiting channel partners and distributors as it launches its first indirect go-to-market strategy.

Do you have carpal tunnel from typing on a smartphone with your thumbs for hours? Going blind from squinting at Microsoft Excel spreadsheets on that tiny smartphone screen? Relief is on the way.

Two-year-old Celio, which won a CES Innovations Award for emerging technology in 2008, may just have the solution for your customers, and the company is looking to recruit channel partners and distributors.

Celio’s Redfly Mobile Companion looks like a netbook in terms of form factor. But it doesn’t have a processor. It’s just a screen and a keyboard that can be plugged into a smart phone providing a larger screen and display for smartphones and their squinting, repetitive stress disorder suffering users.

"The smartphones of today are really more powerful than the laptops of just a few years ago," says Nicole Buchanan, vice president of marketing at Celio. "Smartphones are made with the same components that go into netbooks today, and more smartphones are sold today than laptops."

But it’s hard to type on those tiny keyboards. And it’s hard to see anything on those screens without scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.

"The vision is about connecting a smartphone to any large display and keyboard, and Redfly Mobile Companion is one way to do that," says Buchanan. Celio also offers a Redfly Doc station that can connect to any display and keyboard and also a software-only product that can be loaded on an existing laptop (or included on a laptop by the PC manufacturer in an OEM deal) to enable the laptop to become the terminal to a smartphone.

The advantage of using that instead of a laptop stick or a netbook is that you are only paying for the smartphone’s data connection and not for the data connection of a PC.

The Redfly Mobile Companion device includes a graphics engine, patented by Celio, that allows for the resolution change from smartphone screen to larger screen. Users can see up to 8 columns on the Redfly Mobile Companion of the same spreadsheet that they only saw three columns of on the smartphone, says Kevin Sheier who is running the Celio’s channel operations. 

The Mobile Companion comes in two different models. The 7-inch screen model offers up to 5 hours of battery life and retails for $199. The 8-inch screen model offers up to 8 hours of battery life and retails for $249. Both offer a full QWERTY keyboard and instant-on and instant-off performance. It can connect to a smartphone via USB cable or Bluetooth.

Currently the devices only support Windows Mobile-based smartphones, but Celio is working on support for the Google Android operating system and the BlackBerry operating system. Additionally the company is in talks with Apple about getting access to the technology it needs to support the iPhone.

"We really need to get into the root OS because we are changing the resolution," says B. But because it is a locked operating system we’ve had to work much more closely with Apple, and it’s not usually a short term event to work with these folks to get into the operating system."

Celio launched the Redfly Mobile Companion in July 2008 and within the first eight months sold $2 million worth of products, including accessories such as a carrying case, a media cable, a media port, a wall charger and a VPA car charger.

So far the company’s sales have been primarily direct, but the company is looking to scale its sales and is talking to resellers and distributors, including vertical resellers in the mobile space who may be bundling applications for use in medical or sales force automation environments.


Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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