Zonbu & Hotels: Partner and bundling strategies – Part Deux

So far, the Zonbu appears to be a great product from an interesting new company.

Lots of information is provided on on their website and seem genuinely interested in “doing it right”.

Like any start-up they have some rough edges and some kinks to work out, but overall they are getting broad praise for their product/service; including from me.

Can they hope to achieve the kind of volume of sales necessary to sustain their business model? Are the focused on the right channels and partners?

Today we’re going to explore another potential partner/bundling avenue for the Zonbu: the hospitality industry…

Leaving, on a jet plane

I travel quite frequently for work. I used to travel A LOT (sometimes as much as 400K miles a year).

I’ve spent more nights than I care to remember in random hotel rooms around the world, preparing for meetings the next day, dealing with conference calls and looking for places to print my last-minute hand-out updates and presentation changes.

After the work was done, I’d crash on the bed and flip through the channels only to discover there was nothing to watch, or that all the TV was all in Turkish, or Danish or some other -ish. Or worse, that all they had was CNN International.

Thankfully, over the last few years, broadband Internet access has become ubiquitous in North America and pretty common in Europe and even the Caribbean. I can’t speak to Asia since my backpacking days, but I’ll go out on a limb and say its not a problem. It has made business travel a bit less tedious and definitely more productive.

I can say with authority, hotels (and cruise ships) represent an interesting marketing opportunity for the Zonbu.

Hello, my little friend

Drawing very little power, having no moving parts, taking up little desk space and coming pre-built with a “reset to defaults” button/function, it’s hard to argue that the Zonbu would not be at home in any business class hotel room.

Not to mention that all the software is pre-installed and has no licensing/cost complications for the hotel operator.

Pair it with a 17″ LCD, a fullsize keyboard and mouse and I’m in heaven as a business traveller. Throw in a network printing service (pick up your printouts at the front desk or send them to the nearest Kinkos who will deliver them back to your hotel, printed in colour and bound), and there is little I can’t do.

I can put my work on a USB flash drive I bring along, or I can “break the glass” and pay $15 for the 256MB USB key available next to the $5 water and $3 chocolate bar in the goody basket. Transfer my documents to the Zonbu, use the office suite to edit and update them and print them or e-mail them.


Good times after hours too

After the work is done, I can kick back and surf the web. Maybe IM with friends or family, or play some of the built-in games like Tetris or Breakout.

It’s hard to argue that a Zonbu wouldn’t be a heck of a lot more attractive than those strange WebTV/wireless keyboard units they often have.

Don’t even get me started about how Rhapsody should be included. If the Rhapsody service was included that would be cause enough for me to pay the daily fee.

Why wouldn’t I want all the music I’m in the mood for, customized to my tastes, streamed right to my room while I’m unwinding after a long day of meetings or working on late-night presentation changes?

Two login options

The guest could login is “guest” and use a generic desktop that would auto-reset when they sign out, cleaning up after them and maintaining their privacy. No personal files would reside permanently on the Zonbu.

Or, if the guest is already a Zonbu user, they could choose to login to their normal account and through the magic of broadband, S3 storage and pixie dust all their files, photos, videos and bookmarks would be available to them.

Just like home, only with room service and a maid. When they log out, there wouldn’t be a trace of their private info.

How to make it happen

The hospitality industry is constantly looking for ways to squeeze an extra $10-$15/night out of its guests.

Broadband has become a “must have” for hotel operators and many aren’t even charing for it anymore, so the Zonbu offers an attractive way to get a bit more from the guest. As well, the previously handsome margins on long distance calling have been eroded by cell phone toting travelers and low national rate plans.

The hospitality industry has a lot of different players, you could go direct, but as a small company that can be a big resource drain. Or, you can look to partners like Lodgenet/On Command or SolutionInc who are already selling video and data products in to tens of thousands of hotel rooms around the world.

If I were Zonbu, I’d be on the phone to companies like these, pitching the story and getting the word out.

What great exposure to a growing class of busy business travellers who need simple solutions to complex road-warrior issues.

Who knows, maybe people will want one of these little boxes for their home office once they’ve tried it out.

Secondary market opportunities

It’s not just hotels, of course. Cruise ships, convention centers, business centers, hotels and other transient facilities all represent interesting markets. Of course, as a start-up, you can’t chase them all so partnering with someone who can makes much better sense.

OEM it if you need to, let them brand the box and you brand the desktop software.

Take action

It’s 10% idea, 90% execution.

I’ll continue to chronicle other interesting partner/bundle targets in future posts.

I hope we start hearing some partnering announcements from Zonbu soon.

-Mr. Zonbu


One Response to Zonbu & Hotels: Partner and bundling strategies – Part Deux

  1. Gregg says:

    Not related to this post of yours but I have a question for you. I just read in the PC Mag review


    that they had trouble with the Zonbu playing flash videos from Youtube.

    “One area where Zonbu fell well short of our expectations was playing Flash video off the Web; sites such as YouTube were prone to stuttering playback. (We suspect this is a Flash/Linux issue and not a processor issue; we did have some luck playing back MPEG4 movie trailers from Apple’s QuickTime pages.)”

    –Have you had any problems with the Zonbu playing any streaming flash video from sites like Youtube or Google Video? Thanks.

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