Consumer Web apps: Road kill or the road to success?

I'm at IBDNetwork's Under the Radar event titled "Consumer Technology: Why Web 2.0 Matters.
Written by Dan Farber, Inactive

I'm at IBDNetwork's Under the Radar event titled "Consumer Technology: Why Web 2.0 Matters." The one-day event, held at the Microsoft Mountain View, CA campus, brought out many of the startups (list here) that appear at many of the product showcase venues. The companies present and then three judges ask questions and offer advice, and then attendees vote on the products most likely to succeed. Road kill or a glimmer of hope for success?

As an example, box.net twenty-something founder and designer Aaron Levie demoed the new version of his company's online storage product. The five-person company was formed last year and has some funding from Mark Cuban and about 4,600 paying customers ($4.99 per month for 5 GB or $9.99 per month for 15 GB). The new version, due to launch March 6, will add a try-before-you-buy, restricted 1 GB free storage option. In keeping with Web 2.0-ness, box.net will have lots of AJAX pixie dust, APIs (accessing your files from Netvibes or a Google personal page), previewing of images and mp3 files, a flash-based file uploader, private sharing, tagging and RSS feeds. In addition, box.net will has an AJAX-based document editor and synch files with the desktop. What's next, a spreadsheet? 


Box.net's Aaron Levie goes before the judges at IBDNetwork's Under the Radar event

It's a slick online storage application for people with modest storage needs, but it's not substantial enough yet to make box.net a major player, or become "a ubiquitous presence as a file access point," as Levie hopes. He also said, "We are trying to help consumers with something they didn't know they need, but with a different spin."

The different spin may not have enough spin on it. Many other companies are in this online storage space and some give away more storage for free.  After box.net, Goowy showed its Flash-based email, calendar, instant messaging, file storage (via box.net), games, widgets, etc environment. Mike Arrington, one of the judges, concluded: "You'll run headlong into Microsoft's Live.com." Another judge, Jeff Clavier, was less concerned about running into Live.com. "Through subscription and licensing to ISPs and large brands, Goowy could build a $10 million business, but not $50 million." And so it goes in the Web 2.0 world of consumer applications...

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