Last night, I had the chance to meet with some companies who are exhibiting at this week's CTIA Wireless conference in San Francisco at a press-only event called Mobile Focus. It was a good show - food and drink alongside some new devices and technologies in the mobile space - and a chance to get some one-on-one time with executives about their new products and services. There were plenty of new phones on display but many of the devices were there to showcase new mobile web apps, services and technologies. I talked to a handful of companies (regrets to those I missed) and even snapped a few pics. Here's my roundup:
Lightpole: It's been said time and time again that you can't take a Web site designed for a standard browser and just put it in the mobile space. Lightpole takes the Web site and turns it into a mobile application - not just a mobile version of the Web page. For example, Trulia, a real estate search site, is a mobile app that you might use when if you stumble upon a neighborhood you like and want to find homes for sale in it. Yelp, another example, would let you search for restaurants and other businesses near where you are. I prefer mobile apps over a visit to a mobile Web page. In most cases, they're more friendly to the user and are easier to navigate: two ideal things if you want users to come back.
Streamezzo: Just as developers write applications for Windows, Mac and Linux, developers of mobile apps also have to write for way more mobile platforms - Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian, Palm, Blackberry - and coming soon, Android. Streamezzo takes the pain out having to write multiple versions of the same mobile app by using what they call an "abstraction layer" client on the device. Basically, it's a layer of technology between the device and the display that makes the app compatible with the OS. I kept calling it a "conversion" as I chatted with CEO Pierre-Emmanuel Struyven (left), but he said that's not quite the right way to think about it. The cool thing is that this technology means that developers don't have to think about it. Instead, they just build the best app they can and let Streamezzo ensure that it will work on the devices.
Synaptics: They are the technology behind the touch - as in touch-screen phones. You mean like the iPod? They wouldn't comment on that - but they did show me a number of phones that have touch technology. At the heart of it is the "clearpad," a transparent sensor with an attached chip. The sensor manages the accuaracy and interaction between the motion of touch and the software. The company has been around for more than 20 years and said its technology has been used in monitors, notebooks and mp3 players. Clearly, the new sweet spot is mobile phones.
iVisit: It's video conferencing - between mobile and desktop - among multiple people. I can see some businesses needing something like this - but because it's dependent on the mobile broadband network, I don't know that it would be the best way to conduct a client meeting. It pulls about 50-70 kbps and when it slows down, the picture blurs instead of freezing, the company said. For now, it's available only on Windows Mobile, though iPhone, Android and Symbian are coming soon. It works on both Mac and Windows. Linux wil come next year. It is also independent of carriers, which means it isn't a service you can only get through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and so on. Still, I suspect that, at least in the U.S., mobile broadband isn't strong enough for a service like this - yet. Even though I don't think I'd like to conduct a video chat with four people (left) on a mobile device screen at the same time - but I don't know what mobile device screens will look like when mobile broadband speeds finally reach a level that would make this service with trying.
Zoomback and FindWhere: Stash a little GPS device in the kids backpack, the teenager's car or even the employees work truck to track those moves. Zoomback's device is small - maybe the size of a small pager - while FindWhere's is much bulkier. Both are tied to a Web interface that allow users to track movements and adjust settings - things like boundaries that, when crossed by the GPS unit, sends an alert. So, when the teenager is supposed to be at school but the unit says he's at the mall... Oooh, talk about Big Brother. But, what if the unit was tied to the car that was stolen? Wouldn't you want to know where it was? The Zoomback model is small enough that it could easily attach to a pet - making it a snap to find the lost pooch.