DemoFall hits, misses and maybes

Rafe Needleman provides the wrap up of our DemoFall 2006 coverage, collecting the hits and misses from our ZDNet/CNET team who attended the event (see the Demo blog on News.com and on ZDNet): Hits Rafe Needleman, CNET.
Written by Dan Farber, Inactive
Rafe Needleman provides the wrap up of our DemoFall 2006 coverage, collecting the hits and misses from our ZDNet/CNET team who attended the event (see the Demo blog on News.com and on ZDNet):


Rafe Needleman, CNET.com: I was only able to stay for one day of the conference, but I really liked BeHere TotalView VOIP-based conference room phone. It puts a single camera with a fisheye lens on a stalk above the phone, so it can see everybody in the room. If there's a TotalView in both conference rooms during a call, people who plug their laptops into their local unit can get their own customizable look at the people on the other side of the conference -- a full 360-degree view, a zoom in on a particular person, or a collection of windows showing different scenes. This could be the first fairly-priced ($2000 per unit) group videoconference system that actually works.

BuzzLogic also looks like a game-changer. For marketers, it tracks which blogs are the most-read on a particular topic, who influences the influential bloggers, and who they influence in turn. (Disclosure: ZDNet blogger Mitch Ratcliffe is on the launch team of BuzzLogic. I formed my opinion of this company before I knew this.)

Daniel Terdiman, News.com: I hate to say it, but my favorite product of the conference was Paris-based Violet's Nabaztag. The name is horrible, because no one will ever be able to remember it. But it's one cool Wi-Fi rabbit. That's right, it's a Wi-Fi rabbit that serves as a cool, cute communications tool that can link two people in a visceral way as well as provide an unusual way to find out if you have new email, a fun way to share MP3s, and a rare opportunity to impress friends with what is, essentially, a plastic toy. It is undeniably adorable.

I was a big fan of Dash Navigation and their Dash car navigator. The idea here is that users can benefit from real-time traffic information that is based on the collective intelligence of other Dash users. That's because the Dash system broadcasts users' real-life traffic experiences back to central servers, which then sends that information back to other users.    

Mitch Ratcliffe, ZDNet: The stand-outs for me these: Blueorganizer Browser Extension, from AdaptiveBlue. It makes all this talk about attention into a benefit that helps the user. There's a lot of detail in the product, but in a nutshell it identifies content you use regularly, allows easy extraction of information from pages for your favorites, wish-lists and so forth. One of the preferences that I really liked was the automatic saving in favorites of any page or site that you visit a specified number of times. Only for Firefox now and there will be a lot of challenges to achieve wide adoption, but those are problems that can be solved when you have a great product like this.
Also, I liked Cuts, a diabolically clever approach to video editing of studio movies and television, along with all other video that lets folks remix movies to, for example, make Brokeback Mountain into just a cowboy movie or to show your grandmother the two minutes of Jackass II that won't offend her. Since only the video edit paths are shared--clips must be played in their Mac and PC player from a legal source, such as a DVD or  free video from the Web--there's no litigation waiting to pounce. I think it will sell DVDs and downloadable media just so folks can see what other hack and mashup from the media.

Finally, Jajah Mobile, which is Skype for a mobile phones. An applet installed on a phone intercepts keypad entries and makes calls via VoIP, allowing users to make free calls to other Jajah members and to pay as little as two cents a minute for most places on earth. The applet is a cool hack, don't know why Skype did not do this first.

Marc Orchant, ZDNet: I agree with Mitch on BlueOrganizer from AdaptiveBlue. It's the first thing I saw at the show that I installed instantly. The connectivity to trusted sites where I can take action on the information I aggregate in the organizer is a huge win. Other collection tools stop short of making information actionable the way this tool does.

I also was very impressed with SiteKreator, which is the first really simple and yet really rich site creation tool I think is easy enough for my family to use and powerful enough to let them do some of the things they'll eventually want to with their own Web presence (like add a blog or discussion forum, provide private, password-protected content areas, and set up e-mail mailing lists, RSS feeds, and other communication tools).

My third pick is ThinkFree Office. I've been following the development of this tool and the latest version provides one of the richest Internet application experiences I've seen yet. The document sharing and version control features are particularly powerful.

Dan Farber, ZDNet: My fellow travelers to DemoFall have identified many of the winners, given that no single product stood head and shoulder above the others. For the more business-centric products, PostPath's Linux-based Exchange server and the disaster recovery solution in a box for Microsoft Exchange from Teneros appear to offer a compelling propositions. I also liked the application virtualization platform from Trigence. In addition, the influence of wikis and Web 2.0 on business applications was evident in content management products from Koral, System One, Serebrum and MindTouch.

Two of my personal favorites were Pluggd’s HearHere software, which combines semantic/topic analysis and speech recognition to allow searching of audio files for specific content, and RingCube’s MojoPac, which brings a Windows XP or Vista PC environment to any USB 2.0 storage device , including iPods.


Mitch Ratcliffe: I thought Dash was a miss, albeit a near miss, contrary to Daniel. The social features of the device are really intriguing--each device uploads data that can be used by others on the network to avoid traffic when calculating routes or find services or restaurants. However, the demo played a trick that made it look much easier to use than it will usually be. 

VaporStream, while controversial and interesting because it simply destroys email after it is read, is a miss. I can't imagine any CIO buying this, because corporate records are necessary--if you worry about what you send in email, don't send the email. I'm comfortable with making mistakes, so I don't fear a record of my communications, unless the government wants it, which I can deal with by calling an attorney, not turning to Mission: Impossible email strategies.

There were a number of features in search of a company and products with no business plan, as well. They'll learn and grow or fail by next year's DEMO.

Dan Farber:  The most controversial demo goes to Void Communications' VaporStream, a Web-based, communications platform that eliminates any trace of messages sent  for people and organizations who want real privacy and confidentiality. 

Marc Orchant:  Mitch, Dan, and I agree on VaporStream. This looks like a Sarbanes-Oxley nightmare and I don't see a lot of organizations taking a chance on the repurcussions of not retaining corporate communications. The scanR business card recognizer, although a great idea, lost me because of their affiliation with Jigsaw - a service I find highly objectionable (it pays people to submit other people's business cards into a directory without their explicit permission).

Rafe Needleman: Two things. First, the Mvox Duo, a Bluetooth headset/speakerphone combo. It's a nice little product, but I just told you exactly what it is in four words. The Star Trek-themed demo was overkill. And second, SalesGenius, which I've covered before. It lets salespeople monitor potential customers as they use the salesperson's Web site. Honestly, I think it's a brilliant product and I'll bet it does make salespeople more productive, but it's one of the creepiest monitoring tools I've seen. I'll also weigh in against VaporStream. If you've got a secret, your best bet is to keep it off the PC and the Internet, period.

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