Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

In the Kno: Kakai to Demo Student-Focused Tablet at D8

Recently, BoomTown uncloaked one of Silicon Valley’s hotter “stealth” start-ups, called Kakai.

My take: An advanced tablet device and related service aimed at students.

Today, Kakai is taking another step out of the shadows by changing its name to Kno, which is short for knowledge.

You can see its new logo above–and on the new Kno Web site is this message: “Our stealth days are almost over! You’ll need to wait a few more days to really Kno.”

Actually, you will be able to see exactly what the company has come up with at the eighth D: All Things Digital conference, where it will be demoing the Kno for the first time in public.

The Linux-based foldable double-screened device is designed to feel like a mix of notebook and textbook.

Gesture-based and portable, Kno will be aimed directly at the education niche. The endeavor goes well beyond the tablet itself by including robust software and a seamless Web site to deliver course material, allowing for note-taking and offering other audio and video capabilities.

Founded almost exactly a year ago, Kakai had been one of the start-ups in Silicon Valley in the deepest of stealth modes, despite a panoply of high-profile players involved.

As I wrote:

“In simplest terms, it’s essentially a Kindle for students.

But that’s just the tip of what is perhaps one of the more ambitious and innovative efforts on the part of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who already has one hit under his belt.”

I was referring to Osman Rashid, whose other start-up is fast-growing online textbook rental leader Chegg.

And you can pretty much draw a straight line from Chegg to Kakai.

But rather than focusing on making an old business better via the Web, as Chegg does, Kno will be headed right into the competitive tablet market that now includes Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Samsung, Dell (DELL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and, reportedly, Google (GOOG).

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Kakai/Kno has raised almost $10 million in funding from prominent venture players like Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital, along with investors Mike Maples and Ron Conway.

In addition, Marc Andreessen is now on Kakai’s board.

Rashid, who founded Kakai with Babur Habib, has worked in companies related to the consumer electronics industry.

You can check out their efforts on June 2 on this site, when we will be providing ongoing coverage of D8, where we will also be featuring four other demos of cool new innovations, along with interviews of top tech and media execs.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus