Defiant Kogan plans for future Android, netbook releases

Ruslan Kogan is not a happy man. When I chatted to him recently at CES in Las Vegas the Agora was a fortnight away from launch and looked set to be only the second Android-based handset in the world. However as APC reported those release plans have now been pushed back with the Agora being delayed “indefinitely” because of what Kogan describes as “external forces”.

Kogan admits he is “very disappointed” by the decision but says the company had no other choice after it became clear that design and supplier issues would make a launch unviable. “We had the phone ready we were 100% disappointed” he told APC in an exclusive interview.

Kogan declined to expand further on the reasons for the change citing commercial confidentiality agreements with suppliers. But despite the “indefinite” delay announcement Kogan is confident a revised Agora design will emerge eventually.

“We will plan to launch the phone shortly” he said. “We think we’re a few months away from it now. It relies on a lot of external factors but we’re going to work as hard as we can to try and launch an Android phone.”

Kogan dismissed suggestions that a factor in the launch delay was a lack of funding to manufacture the phone. “That’s definitely very far from the case” he said. “We will have lost money from the Agora launch because of all the R&D and the launch costs and the cancellations but the overall financial position of the company has nothing to do with it. It won’t impact on that because the Agora is a tiny part of our business.

He also said that plans to expand Kogan into the US and the UK this year would go ahead despite the Agora delay. “The number one demanded consumers electronics product in the world is LCD televisions and the number two is GPS. All of those are business as usual for us so it won’t affect our international launch at all.”

Another rapidly growing consumer category is the netbook market and Kogan also wants to move into that space. Kogan said that the release of a Kogan-branded netbook was just “weeks away”.

In an interesting development on the Kogan Android saga Engadget found phones for sale on the wholesale auction site that looked remarkably like the Kogan Agora. Being sold as the “Shining G8000” phone and with “brand” written on the phone of the phone (presumably a placeholder for whatever brand the buyer would like inscribed on the phone) anyone can buy them in lots of 100 for $US240 ($368) each.

It’s unknown whether these phones were the reference design for Kogan’s Agora or whether the Chinese manufacturer has simply created a phone with an ‘uncanny resemblance’ to Kogan’s phone. However given Ruslan Kogan’s self-professed method of cutting out middleman costs by buying parts from the cheapest supplier in Asia and putting them together for retail sale it seems that the former explanation is the most likely.

Sources suggest to APC that the true reason the Kogan Agora phone was pulled from sale before its launch was that the 320×240 screen resolution was too small to accommodate Android applications and that Kogan only realised this when founder Ruslan Kogan spoke to Google representatives at CES.

With additional reporting by Dan Warne.