Macheen, a company that wants to build a broadband cloud that can provide device makers and retailers with a way to deliver connectivity, has signed a deal with Sprint to deliver 3G service in the U.S. As part of this move the company also said Dell is using its service in the U.S. and Germany to provide customers with broadband access when they buy certain Dell devices.
The Austin, Texas startup aggregates connectivity from mobile operators and sells a data service to device companies and retailers who install Macheen’s software on the gadgets they sell. When a consumer buys the device and brings it home, he can connect immediately to the web via cellular networks or even Wi-Fi and sign up to buy access on a variety of pre-paid plans. There’s no contract, and if someone has multiple devices hooked into the Macheen cloud they can share access among them all.
In June Macheen raised an additional $10 million. The company could become an important element in the growing mobile ecosystem because it allows hardware vendors and retailers to add connectivity to their devices as well as helps them cement a relationship with the consumer that might otherwise go to a carrier. Carriers, on the other hand, are willing to work with Macheen so far because it helps boost their portfolio of machine-to-machine subscriptions that might otherwise never connect using a traditional data plan. However, because the person who controls the broadband access might end up controlling the relationship with the consumer, it’s uncertain how long such a model might hold with Macheen in the middle. Currently, Macheen can provide access to Sprint’s 3G network, but it can’t offer access to its 4G WiMAX network via Clearwire.
As Om has written, the device makers are trying to differentiate themselves with services, and Macheen’s, white label access to broadband helps with that, but will carriers cede that relationship to others? Sprint has in the U.S., but Sprint was also the first carrier to sign on to deliver Amazon’s e-books to the Kindle e-reader. Will that model prevail? For more on Macheen’s model and mission check out the video I did back in March with Richard Schwartz, the CEO of the company.