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Walker Digital

Our experience with Sybase has been very positive and productive. Working with Sybase 365 we’ve been able to launch a quality product that is being well received and did it on time and on budget. Based on that, I’d have to say that if you want to get something accomplished in the mobile space, these are the folks you need to contact.

Shirley Bergin
Chief Marketing Officer, Walker Digital

Walker Digital, an invention laboratory best known for creating priceline.com, developed an ingenious consumer product – Cellphone Postcards. To meet an aggressive implementation timetable and launch the product on time and on budget, the company turned to Sybase 365 for its mobile messaging expertise, established relationships with major carriers and its superior customer service.

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Creating Treasured Keepsakes on the Go
Walker Digital is an “invention laboratory” in the words of company chief marketing officer, Shirley Bergin. Best known for creating priceline.com, Walker Digital is a business solutions company that invents consumer-based applications that sit on top of large-scale networks such as the Internet and cellular, digital carrier networks like AT&T and Verizon. In addition to priceline.com, Walker Digital created the automated credit card subscription renewal system Time Warner publications uses. The company has a rich portfolio of intellectual property that includes more than 200 U.S. and International patents to date and more than a thousand patents for which it has applied. As such, it is always working on new ideas and inventions that leverage this vast resource of intellectual property.

Recently, the company created a new product aimed at consumers called Cellphone Postcards. On the face of it, it’s one of those ideas that you hear about and smack yourself in the head exclaiming, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Of course, coming up with the idea was the easy part. Implementing it was a bit more involved.

A Novel Product In Search of an Implementation Partner
“Cellphone Postcards,” explains Bergin, “is based on a simple proposition, which is that there are billions of pictures taken every year with cell phones but a lot, maybe most, of those pictures never get used. They just sit in storage on people’s cell phones. We wanted to create a way to make it easy for cell phone owners to transform those pictures into memorable keepsakes that could be shared and enjoyed in a way that was different than the typical methods of sharing mobile media. Also, because only about 29 percent of cell phones in use at present are smartphones, we wanted to provide this capability to virtually every cell phone owner. The only requirement was that the phone had to have a camera, which pretty much includes every phone sold over the past five years or so.”

Walker Digital’s invention team came up with Cellphone Postcards (cellphonepostcards.com) as a way to transform pictures on individuals’ cell phones into high quality physical postcards, featuring personal messages that could be created right on users’ handsets (rather than requiring a smartphone application or a sophisticated interface) in less than 30 seconds and mailed to one or dozens of friends and family members for just 99 cents apiece.

While it’s true people can and often do send pictures from one cell phone to another cell phone (where they then sit on the receiving phone unused in any particularly meaningful way), Cellphone Postcards provides a unique capability, enabling users to turn those photos into treasured keepsakes – physical postcards that people can hold and read and frame or put up on their refrigerator doors. It’s a perfect marriage of leading edge mobile messaging technology and that classic retro favorite – the postcard.

From the user’s perspective, generating Cellphone Postcards couldn’t be simpler. The user takes a picture or chooses one already residing on his or her phone, types a short message to the recipient or multiple recipients, indicates on a pre-populated address book using shortcodes who should receive the postcard(s) and then texts the message to 77468 (it spells “Print”) and that’s all there is to it. Once the order is received by Walker Digital, the sender receives an SMS confirmation message.

Of course, behind the scenes, there is a lot more going on to make the product work.

The Walker Digital invention team knew how to create this product. What it lacked was a partner that was knowledgeable in MMS and SMS messaging technology and that was an aggregator with well-established relationships with the large network operators. Walker Digital needed someone to present the product in a compelling and easily understandable way to the carriers, with the assurance that the product had been thoroughly tested on all of the handsets supported by the carriers to ensure that it would not result in unnecessary support calls.

Sybase MMS 365 for Reach, Expertise and Customer Service
After researching its options in this endeavor, Walker Digital selected Sybase MMS 365.

“Interestingly enough,” says Bergin, “Cellphone Postcards isn’t a terribly complicated product, although it is unique because it’s a product that is mobile messaging originated (MMO), meaning that it’s created on the go directly on the user’s handset. Our bigger challenge to making it work was finding a reliable and cost-effective way to manage a number of third-party relationships, key among them, the carriers. We researched companies that could help us with this and eventually evaluated Open Market and Sybase. We selected Sybase 365 because we felt its reach in the U.S. market was superior and its expertise and customer service were unmatched.”

Sybase 365’s role in the implementation of Cellphone Postcards consisted of:

  • Testing the product on the literally hundreds of cell phones supported by the major carriers
  • Helping the Walker Digital invention team package and present the product to the carriers in a manner most likely to secure their support of the product
  • Providing a single connection to the multiple carriers (via the Sybase MMS 365 content delivery gateway) without the need to negotiate individual agreements and establish individual connections with each carrier
  • Working along side the Walker Digital invention team to ensure that its back-end order tracking was working correctly.

“Thanks to the partnership we established with Sybase 365,” says Bergin, “we were able to launch on time, which is amazing because we built and developed this product in just over 90 days – from idea to primetime. Sybase 365 played a significant role in that accomplishment.”

While Cellphone Postcards has been up and running for just a short period of time, it appears to have a bright future, in just the first week it was in operation, thousands of postcards were sent.

“We’re hoping that this product will become a part of people’s everyday lives,” says Bergin. “It’s about being able to share every day moments with friends and family – even those who don’t use computers or have cell phones. It’s about reintroducing people in this extremely technical age to the excitement and emotional connection of receiving something very personal through the mail slot.”

As Bergin imagines additional uses of Cellphone Postcards, she envisions B2B applications in theme parks, on cruise ships – the possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination. And Walker Digital has grown its business based on imagination.

“Our Experience with Sybase Has Been Positive and Productive”
As for the partnership with Sybase 365, Bergin says, “The word on the street is that nothing in the mobile space is easy. People tell you that you’re not going to be able to accomplish half of what you want to get done and that it’s hard to find anybody you can trust to deliver what they promise. Our experience with Sybase, though, has been very positive and productive. Working with Sybase 365 we’ve been able to launch a quality product that is well received, and did it on time and on budget. Based on that, I’d have to say that if you want to get something accomplished in the mobile space, these are the folks you need to contact.”


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