Microsoft
today announced the launch of ZenZui, an
independent Mobile Web company. ZenZui offers a patented (by Microsoft)
“Zooming User Interface” for mobile phones. The technology was
initially developed by the Microsoft Research lab in Redmond, then acquired by
ZenZui – who also got venture capital funding from Microsoft IP Ventures to help
launch its company.

What is ZenZui?

ZenZui‚Äôs core feature is its ‘zooming’ interface, which gave rise to its
current marketing slogan: “Stop Surfing. Start Zooming.” In technical
terms, ZenZui is said to have “a high-frame rate zooming user interface
[which] employs up to 36 individual ‚Äútiles‚Ä? that are selected and customized
by users”. On the ZenZui website, they further
explain
how to use this zooming interface:

“Using a single thumb, you fly in and out of your Zoomspace ‚Äì two
simple taps get you directly to any Tile. Through some clever engineering, we
constantly refresh your Tiles in the background, so they’re always fresh,
available, and ready to be Zoomed.”

Well, it’s easier to grok if you view this quick 2-minute
video demo
on YouTube. Here’s a pictorial representation of how it works:

Companies that have partnered with ZenZui for the initial trial include
Kayak.com, OTOlabs, Avenue A | Razorfish and Traffic.com Inc.

ZenZui recently closed a Series-A financing round of $12 million, from Oak
Investment Partners and Hunt Ventures. And with Microsoft in its corner, it has
heavyweight marketing backing too.

Business Model

ZenZui has come up with an ecosystem for its product, which essentially aims
to make money by advertisers and marketers sponsoring Tiles. For users, ZenZui
will then match “relevant sponsors with each Tile”. They describe this
model, a little too cutely, as “CPZ ‚Äì Cost Per Zoom”. The ecosystem
is summed up in this diagram, which I must admit I haven’t fully grokked yet:

Conclusion

ZenZui seems like a cool interface for mobile, but the business model is a
little confusing to me. I don’t quite understand how viewing sponsored Tiles,
which are essentially mini-advertisements, will be viral to consumers. The
diagram has lots of nice triangles, squares and arrows – but can someone
explain to me in plain english how the ecosystem works? Preferably without using
the word “zoom”…