Karma To Go

22 06 2012

Everyone must want good karma these days. First there was the Karma app that launched in February (and was purchased by Facebook on 18th May). And now there’s the Karma mobile wifi hotspot. Later this year, folks will be able to purchase the Karma device for $69, and then share hotspot access for up to eight other users. It runs on the Clear backbone (i.e., Sprint), and the catch is that people who hop on can get a pay-as-you-go plan for only $14 per gigabyte.

Here’s how it works: Your Karma hotspot is basically a public access point. And users are not limited to a specific location or device…it can work if they hop on someone else’s Karma elsewhere. It also functions a lot like Dropbox.com’s model in that for every person you sign up, you get 100 megabytes of data. Sign up a hundred people, and you’ll be cruising along nicely.

On paper, this sounds like a great idea. It can be much cheaper than having monthly plans for similar services. Plus, it is a heck of a lot better than either not being able to find a public access point, or, worse yet, getting dinged for $15 a night at a hotel.

But it is not perfect. Yes, I suppose you can be building good karma by being that nice provider of wifi among total strangers in your proximity, but what if you decide, “Hey, gotta go!” Suddenly your karma account goes negative when you pull the plug on other people busy working.

Furthermore, it is dependent on you being in one of the 80 US cities in which Clear operates, and…and this is the most important part…it’s not much different from being an early mover in the fax business. You need others have to have this device. Lots of others. Otherwise, this is not going to work.You may have paid your $14, but if you are in Amarillo TX (one of the 80 cities) and no one else has the device, you are out of luck.

“Can anyone help this guy find a coffee shop?”

If the Karma device takes off, though, it could make public internet a reality for more and more Americans. Even still, though, there is an upper limit. It’s kind of like those crazy multilevel marketing gimmicks. If everyone is selling Shaklee, then no one is really making any money (or racking up megabytes of data). You will wind up paying your own $14/GB fee just like the folks you are supposedly banking karma with.

As for me, I am all to happy to keep my Sprint wifi hotspot. I know that it will work for me regardless, be it 4G or 3G. I do not need to worry about finding a public hotspot, or, more importantly, a karma capitalist. I am also willing to share my hotspot with my friends and colleagues (it supports up to five users).

And the best part is that I have no karma expectations. I mean, unless they want to take me to dinner or something. A bowl of karma sounds pretty good right now, to be honest.

“Here, let’s see what Triple-D places are nearby.”

Dr “Smother It In Chocolate Syrup” Gerlich


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