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SCO's mobile hopes
Friday, April 17 2009 @ 11:06 PM EDT

SCO has represented to the court that their mobile business is going great guns, and that it has great hopes for it. Mentioned specifically is the new FranklinCovey application for iPhones, a day planner app called FCTasks, also called FCmobilelife Tasks on FranklinCovey's website.

FCTasks has been out since February, so I thought it'd be useful to take a look and see how it's doing and what the likelihood is that the mobile business will save the company.

If you click on "Details" on the FranklinCovey page, it will take you to the iTunes stores, if you have iTunes on your computer, and to FCTasks. There you will learn that "FCTasks" was "released February 27, 2009" and it costs $5.99. Here's a description:

FC Tasks is an easy-to-use, feature-rich task management tool that incorporates proven FranklinCovey planning methodology. Quickly manage all of your daily personal and professional tasks from your iPhone and iPod touch with this app developed by the world leaders in time management.
It's version 1.2 on the iTunes store. It says version 1.3 is "coming soon" but you can't actually get it yet. I assume it's the same thing SCO was telling the bankruptcy judge at the last hearing was lighting up the sky. The Franklin Covey site calls it "FCmobilelife Tasks" but you can't find it that way on iTunes. Search for FCTasks. It's not yet rated for popularity, despite any claims to the contrary.

If you recall, SCO in its latest SEC filing told the world that its reorganization plan depended in part on FCmobilelife Tasks and FCTasks:

On January 8, 2009, the Debtors filed their Amended Reorganization Plan and Disclosure Statement. Under the proposed plan, the Debtors intend to hold an open auction to sell certain assets of the Company including its mobility business assets and its OpenServer operating system assets and business. Through this sale, the Debtors hope to obtain enough consideration to pay their creditors and continue their operations as set forth in the plan. In the event that the asset sale does not generate enough cash to meet the aforementioned objectives, the Company will scale back its operations and costs, and initiate other strategies to implement the plan of reorganization. In the event that certain SCO assets are not sold, SCO will continue to sell and support its UNIX and mobility businesses and will also focus on the following key provisions: (a) an enhanced pricing and discount strategy, (b) an updated “true-up” licensing program with current customers, (c) reducing overall operating costs, (d) delivering SCO UNIX Virtual product lines for VMware and Hyper-V to allow SCO legacy applications to run on modern hardware, and (e) shipping FCmobilelife and FCtasks for the iPhone with a new pricing structure.
Well, that plan seems to have hit the same stone wall all the other plans did, but there's a demo of FCTasks on YouTube, which 4 people have "subscribed" to and which has been viewed 1,428 times. There are several demos on that page, actually. There is one "Channel Comment" and here it is in its entirety:

lol

The customer ratings rank is 2 1/2 stars out of 5. Some seem to really like it, particularly Franklin Covey fans, but even those that do like it overall are presenting lists of improvements they'd like to see. Like syncing with the desktop. Syncing with anything. Fixing bugs that make it crash. 6 taps to accomplish a task. No documentation. Version 1.3 will fix "the deleting bug when deleting a task in the Plan or Master task list", so apparently it's an acknowledged bug.

You can read a review on iPhone App Reviews. There are 18 reviews there, and some complain it is overpriced. On the right of the page, you'll find the ratings, and it does not appear on that list. It does show a 3 star rating, out of 5 stars. But it's quite new. That could change. Here's the listing on What's On iPhone, and not only is it not listed on any top 20 list I could find. It's not even reviewed yet.

Here are the "All-Time Top Paid Apps" on iTunes. FCTasks is not on the list. Neither is FCmobilelife. If you are in iTunes money store, search for "tasks" and you'll find FCTasks and you'll also find other such apps so you can compare:

And just in case someone tries to tell you that FCTasks is in the top 20 productivity paid apps, note this screenshot a reader sent me:

AppCraver reviewed FCTasks and the headline says it all, FCTasks by Franklin Covey Good, Not Great:

One aspect I did find lacking was the inability to email your day’s tasks, or even one task. Since there is no such app to date that syncs and plays nicely with Outlook or iCal (at least to my knowledge), I expected an app carrying a leading name in organization and time management to have at least included email capability. Otherwise, what happens when you have to reboot your device and the data can’t be recovered?

I’d have to say FCTasks is sleeker than some though a bit pricey for what you get, but all in all more than acceptable. I could maybe see myself using it more successfully than others I’ve test driven, but less expensive task managers may suit you just as well as this one. If there was a way to email lists after creating them, I think I would solidly commit to FCTasks alone.

I actually want SCO to have a remunerative business, so it can pay its creditors, but if this is what the company is depending on to build a reorganization plan, can it work out?

FCmobilelife

Note that FCTasks isn't the same thing as FCmobilelife, despite the confusing names. FCTasks is an iPhone app. FCmobilelife is a calendaring service that runs on Blackberries and Windows Mobile. You can run it on a PC browser, but not on a phone browser. And here's the FCmobilelife page for some description. Here's SCO's press release mentioning it last October. And there was testimony in September from CEO Darl McBride that it was released the month before:

Q: Can you explain -- you already stated that the mobility end of the business is sort of like a separate part of the business?

A: Yes.

Q: Has that made any progress in the years since the bankruptcy was begun?

A: Yes, we've made significant progress. Even as we speak, we had a -- a product that was launched in the last month by the FranklinCovey Company, an organization I used to work at, Stephen Covey's company on time management and productivity management, if you will. We did a deal with them, licensing deal.

They have since gone to market and, kind of like a proud papa, I pack this around in my briefcase, but Franklin Covey's big catalog that hit millions of users just last week came out and they have a full two-page spread in there that goes through one of our flagship mobile products which is called FCmobilelife. We let them license our MeMobile software. They are now going to market with it. And as this came out, we're getting 100s of downloads a day of new -- new customers signing up for this product.

With billions of cell phones out there, everybody who has a cell phone that has any intelligence on there, which is a lt of them now, would be a candidate to use this product and get value out of it. So, it's -- we're -- we're very pleased that we're starting to get some traction on that part of the business.

If it's been out since August of 2008, presumably there are hard sales figures available by now. Remember when Me Inc was going to be their ticket to revenue?
Mobility Products and Services.

Our new Mobility Server product provides a secure, reliable connection point between handheld devices and corporate infrastructure applications and servers; a HipCheck Service which enables pro-active mobile administration for UNIX and Windows servers; a Shout product which enables users to communicate multimedia messaging to groups of any size via a mobile smart phone or rich media web landing page; and a Shout Postcard product which allows users to send virtual postcards from their smart phone, and Me Inc. Mobile (branded FCmobilelife by Franklin Covey Co., a collaborative time and task management tool which allows users to set appointments, connect with others, create tasks, track goals and blog with associates using their web browser or Smartphones such as Windows Mobile, Blackberry or iPhone devices.

Does that sound like they know what the different mobile products are? Maybe they know, but it's not so clear to me. Is Me Inc now FCmobilelife? Or is Me Inc Mobile something entirely different? I thought SCO said Me Inc was a victim of the economy, but I don't know what that means for FCmobilelife. Is it flourishing? How would we know? Can anyone find a clue in the latest 10K, linked to above?

Here's a picture of FCmobilelife on a Blackberry. It says you can try it free, but this page says it's limited to one month. Here's what FCmobilelife is, as explained in the support FAQ:

What is FCmobilelife?

FCmobilelife is a real-time calendaring and collaborating solution available on selected mobile devices or on a PC within a web browser.

It costs $29.95 for an "annual full-function, full-feature license for one primary user".

Update: A reader suggested searching for patents. So I did, and indeed there is a patent application, SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR PROVIDING DISTRIBUTED APPLICATIONS AND SERVICES FOR INTELLIGENT MOBILE DEVICES, patent application 20070067381. It isn't a patent yet, but it is in the process, as we noted back in 2008. I see no change in its status since we last looked. "Case Docketed to Examiner in GAU".

You'll never in a million years be able to figure out what I'm thinking the real mobile hope might be. Blech.

SCO also has an issued patent, Method and apparatus for executing multiple JAVA(.TM.) applications on a single JAVA(.TM.) virtual machine, number 6,931,544, which issued in 2005.


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