Some old familiar faces were making their first visit to Internet World. The U.S. Postal Service was here, showing off several products including Post Electronic Courier Service - which allows any kind of file to be sent over the Internet "at less cost than an overnight service, and with greater reliability than traditional e-mail," says the agency.
Power of the Post Office
I asked one of the booth managers how the Post Office will use its well-known brand against upstarts like PostX. "The brand definitely helps," he said. "People know that if they intercept someone's mail, it's a federal crime."
Other first-timers from the brick-and-mortar world included Barnes & Noble, the technology law firm of Brobeck Phleger, and financial powerhouses Visa and Citibank.
One noticeable trend is that more applications are being targeted at consumers -- a sure sign that people believe this mother lode market opportunity is about to pop.
Ancestry.com, for example was displaying its online research capabilities. Centraal's RealNames product was picking up some buzz, too. Targeted at the Web novice, RealNames allows users to type in a search using common terms, such as Sony HandyCam, and not have to sift through 123,987 hits.
The phone seems to becoming more of an Internet force. Motorola unveiled its Voice Markup Language, or VoxML, a technology that will allow users to give Internet commands with voice. And General Magic displayed Portico, a dazzling smart phone network that helps you do everything from scheduling appointments to reading you your e-mail. (Hmmm - do I really want to hear those 100 messages piling up in my inbox?)
Where did they go?
But for all the recent talk about Internet appliances, including a huge spread in USA Today this week, there were very few of them to be seen on the show floor. Aplio showed its Internet phone -- a device that lets you place long-distance calls over the Net without a computer. One snag: both parties must have an Aplio phone. The Java-controlled refrigerators will have to wait for another show, apparently.
I was just as surprised by who wasn't at this show as by who was. Very few PC companies were represented. That's interesting because these folks are all trying to figure out how to make their machines more Web-friendly. Seems like Internet World would be a good place to find out. Even Apple, which controls the hot QuickTime technology and sells a product called the iMac (the "i" is for Internet), was absent.