Sabeer Bhatia, the serial entrepreneur from India who became a household name back in the late nineties with Hotmail’s meteoric rise, has been trying hard to repeat his success, but his later projects like Arzoo and BlogEverywhere flopped spectacularly in spite of plenty of initial hype. Nevertheless, not being the one to give up, he is back again with a new product. Bhatia believes that his new venture called Jaxtr, launched in partnership with Yogesh Patel, has the potential to be as disruptive and popular as Hotmail, which pioneered the email revolution.
JaxtrSMS is a free mobile texting app that is launching with support for a wide range of platforms including Android, iOS, Blackberry, Symbian, and Java. Free texting apps are dime a dozen these days, and Jaxtr is entering a fairly competitive and crowded space. Giants such as RIM, Google, and Facebook are tugging it out with newcomers like Kik and WhatsApp. However, Jaxtr has one feature that almost all of its competitors lack – support for SMS. Jaxtr works for all your contacts, no matter where they are in the world and what phone they are using. If the receiver has Jaxtr installed then he will instantly receive your message through app to app delivery. If he doesn’t have Jaxtr installed, then he will receive a standard SMS message. Although I can’t vouch for Jaxtr’s claims of complete worldwide coverage, it did work for the Indian carriers that I tested.
Jaxtr’s user interface varies significantly across platforms. I took the Android version of Jaxtr for a spin. Although the color combination is rather distracting (the iPhone app is offensively ugly), the interface feels intuitive and familiar. However, there are a couple of annoyances that might put off users. Jaxtr transparently attaches an annoying ad (self-promotion) to every SMS sent through it, and it doesn’t provide delivery reports. On a couple of occasions, the SMS didn’t actually get delivered even though Jaxtr marked it as sent. If Jaxtr wishes to be taken seriously, it needs to sort out these two issues. However, it is undoubtedly the most promising product that we have seen in recent times from Bhatia.