Pour your PC into your pocket By Ryan Blitstein Mercury News -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (publ. 09/26/06) An article about MojoPac software from RingCube of Mountain View misidentified where the business started. It began in Kiran Kamity's garage. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ever wish you could stick your whole computer in your back pocket and take it wherever you went? MojoPac promises to let you do it. Mountain View start-up RingCube will show off its MojoPac software at the DEMO fall conference next week in San Diego, where entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists get a look at emerging technologies. RingCube already has raised $4 million from New Enterprise Associates. More than just a handheld with e-mail and calendar, MojoPac aims to transform anything that can store data into a portable personal computer. You can bring your programs, settings and data to another machine by loading them onto devices ranging from a thumb-size flash card to a digital camera. ``You can carry the soul of the personal computer with you,'' says Katya Falakshahi, RingCube's vice president of business development. How you'd use the MojoPac depends on how you use your computer. Families could transport personalized applications and data around the house, no matter which desktop they're using. Gamers could bring video games with saved game states -- even those that take up several gigabytes on a hard drive -- to friends' houses without a time-consuming install process. Business travelers could take their digital personality from office to hotel to Internet cafe. The software works by creating a virtual operating system, which runs programs from the storage device, but uses the computing power of the ``host'' machine's hardware. Shan Appajodu hatched MojoPac as a programmer at Borland in early 2004. He wanted his home and work computer to have the same programs and data, without lugging a laptop back and forth from the office. He began work on RingCube in his garage, teaming with Mike Larkin, a storage systems engineer at IBM and Appajodu's faculty colleague at San Jose State University, now chief technical officer, and Kiran Kamity, vice president of engineering. ``We started with the idea: Why should we be stuck using one computer or laptop all the time?'' recalls Appajodu, now RingCube's chief executive. Falakshahi visited the garage last November and joined soon after, helping to close the financing from New Enterprise Associates, where she had been a principal and now acts as a consultant. Why the cheesy name MojoPac? Because, she says, the applications and settings on a computer are ``what makes you powerful -- your digital mojo -- and this lets you take your mojo wherever you go.'' For the most part, broad industry trends are on RingCube's side: Storage is cheap and getting cheaper, and people are as mobile as ever. The market it enters is populated by U3 and other companies selling ``smart'' USB flash drives, which allow users to put data and basic software on them. Almost 3 million smart drives were sold in 2005, and as many as 30 million may ship this year, according to research firm Gartner. Yet these products restrict the applications people can load onto the drives -- for example, U3-compatible drives don't support Microsoft Word. ``As far as I can tell, what RingCube has right now is highly unique,'' says Tim Bajarin, analyst at Creative Strategies. ``For the business traveler, it's a godsend, but you can imagine that even for the general consumer . . . it's great.'' Appajodu hopes to someday bring RingCube to developing countries like his native India, where millions who can't afford their own computers spend their online time logged into Internet kiosks, which have no standardized language package, much less similar applications. He's talking to several large enterprises about purchasing hundreds of MojoPac licenses for employees, and he has visions of devices pre-loaded with application software, like a digital camera that comes with Adobe Photoshop. There are so many potential markets for the technology, RingCube's executives and investors struggled to settle on which to focus on first. ``Right now we're sticking our toes in the water in a bunch of different ponds to figure out which is the warmest,'' said Forest Baskett, RingCube board member and general partner at NEA. U3 or another established smart drive player might soon copycat MojoPac's technology, and use its marketing muscle against RingCube. For the time being, though, the main threat to the business is the migration of data and applications off the desktop and onto the Web. Large companies like Google and upstarts like JotSpot are offering spreadsheets, word processors and data storage online at no cost. Yet RingCube's team believes their product can bridge the gap between personal computer and the PC-less digital future. ``In the traditional model, everything is on your PC,'' Baskett says. ``The model people are talking about now is all of your stuff out there in the cloud, on the Internet. This is in between -- in this model, all of your stuff is in your pocket.'' MojoPac for PCs will be available for $49.95 at www.mojopac.com, starting Monday.