At the 2009 Boomer Venture Summit event June 17, 2009, senior catalog company firstSTREET and partner MyGait announced the GO Computer -- described, quite confusingly, not on the First Street Online site, but on a separate The GO Computer site (in itself mystifying), as a landmark breakthrough. The description: a "failure-free and fear-free" computer especially conceived for and by seniors over an eight-year period of hands-on research at senior centers and assisted living communities around the country."
The "designed for SENIORS GO Computer™" offers a "large-letter keyboard to its fool-proof operating system, to accommodate the needs and wishes of a demographic that has traditionally resisted the world of computers or had the hardest time accessing it. "And these are the very people," says first STREET's Mark Gordon, "who may well benefit most from email and Internet access." MyGait is a Houston services firm that markets to Assisted Living Facilities and senior housing, FirstStreet the catalog company that markets a broad range of senior-oriented products, including the Jitterbug phone.
The product ($799) was reviewed this week by GadgetFinder. It is a thin-client product which becomes operational and offers services updates -- and service -- for $19.95 per month. The call center responders are seniors helping seniors -- 2000 of the MyGait customers who are familiar with the computer, providing counseling service about its use and if they can't help, the call is escalated to GO Computer service staffers. Says "GO Computer service staffer: "Everything is extremely secure. All files are remotely saved at the GO Computer site, and if a user accidentally deletes something, GO Computer staffers retrieve it for them."
This is a possibly a great thing for the aging in place technology market. However, I think this is going to have to be placed into context with the previous 'Microsoft Senior PC' (> $1200) which has not been popular with seniors, largely because of price. With the touch screen PC available from Asus (promoted as easy to use) and inexpensive software that hides PC complexity (like PointerWare ('computers made simple'), a 'senior PC' is available today literally for half of that price -- but without the service angle -- which may make all the difference.
I called and got this description: "The GO Computer service is offered by 2000 seniors, drawn from 10,000 MyGait customers, who provide unlimited phone and e-mail support (all emails will be answered within 24 hours or less); unlimited upgrades, effortless administrative tools, and user friendly links to safe websites.' And to make sure that seniors use the service -- the GO Computer doesn't actually work without access to the host site and agreement to the monthly service charge."
It is great to see competition to make a PC that today's seniors can enjoy. The more entrants the better, in my view. And price/performance/features of hardware like a touch screen in all-in-1 PCs is dropping. In fact, perhaps the GO Computer will drop in hardware price in the near term as a result of volume.
For those vendors out there who are avoiding the PC as a platform for new applications (think telehealth, for example and Intel's Health Guide), perhaps a rethink is in order. PC's have presumably been avoided because of assumptions about senior tolerance levels for a PC's complexity. Whoops. Maybe they're not so complex with new devices, screens, software interfaces -- and service.
A PC offers enormous advantages for seniors who can use it (imagine one with a camera) to share with their grandchildren, surf the Internet, answer e-mail, learn about services (like transportation) and access other capabilities that widen their world. So:
The GO Computer and other easy-to-use PCs and software should challenge the biases and box proliferation of home monitoring, telehealth, home security, cable TV set top boxes, etc., etc.
The out of the box $799 pricing sounds high -- but when you add the 'demystification' capability proven by residents of assisted living and senior housing -- the MyGait feature -- this becomes very interesting.
For seniors who can afford to spend the money and say they will never use a computer -- this is very compelling. Perhaps senior centers and other aging-focused non-profits will figure out a scholarship strategy for those who can't afford it. I firmly believe that 100% of seniors age 65+ need this access.