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Mobile tech blooms at Demo Spring

An iPhone-based service for signing documents and an Excel front-end for cloud computing were among the new tech launched at the Demo conference

Mobile, social and cloud technologies took the centre stage on the first day of launches at Demo Spring 2010, including several products and services targeted at businesses.

The technology showcased at the conference on Monday included a cloud presentation service for the iPad, an application for reading large email attachments on smartphones without downloading them, and an Excel front-end to a cloud-computing service.

Several of the tools there aimed to simplify the building and sharing of mobile apps, though the more significant mobile launches for business users addressed the problems of working with files on small-screen devices.

"I didn't always see a full recognition of the principle 'don't get in the way of the internet', but what's valuable is where apps are solving those basic problems on the mobile device like mobile attachments," Lee Williams, the executive director of the Symbian Foundation, said about the mobile applications on show.

Zosh introduced an iPhone-based tool for managing document workflows, using a cloud service to store, manage and reformat documents. With the software, also named Zosh, a user with an iPhone can sign a document using their finger and the phone's touchscreen before forwarding it to its next recipient. Version 1.5 of Zosh was released on the iTunes store on Monday.

Visiarc's Mobile Documents email client (initially for Symbian devices) stores attachments in Visiarc's cloud service and delivers low-bandwidth representations of files to the phone. People choose the pages they want to view at higher resolution. These then arrive via progressive download, saving download time and reducing network bandwidth demands, according to Visiarc.

New tools putting a business spin on social networks included Close.ly, a group marketing service for small and medium-sized businesses, and Democrasoft's Collaborize.

Close.ly's service provides a low-cost special-offer platform for small service businesses, with a focus on group deals. Businesses can advertise special offers on social networks like Twitter and use Close.ly's CRM backend to monitor the success of a campaign.

Intended to remove some of the pain from group working, Collaborize helps manage group decision-making processes. Using Democrasoft's web platform, discussion owners create simple poll-based sites and can also solicit suggestions from visitors that can be voted on as part of the poll. As well as running the decision-making process, there are tools for reporting and for sharing the results, with the aim of producing a decision rather than endless discussion.

"When you've got a forum, a blog or a wiki, you've really brought people online but you haven't achieved much. Our software is structured to provide clear, actionable results," Colt Briner, general manager at Democrasoft, said.

Cloudscale's Cloudcel service is designed to work with high-volume streams of data in a familiar interface. The service is based on UK academic research and uses a cloud-based parallel computing system to process massive data sets. Its results are delivered in Excel for local post-processing and reporting using Microsoft's business intelligence tools. Excel can also be used to build applications that run on Cloudcel. This promises to give companies the tools they need to process large amounts of data from their own systems and services without their having to learn complex database-processing techniques.

Data is also at the heart of FathomDB, which uses a cloud platform to scale out SQL-based databases. Additional processing can be implemented as required using low-cost commodity servers.

An alternative approach to cloud computing came from contact management plugin Gwabbit, which has a new service that allows contacts to be stored online and shared with multiple services. Using the Gwab-o-Sphere, a contact updated in Facebook would be automatically reflected in Outlook or in a BlackBerry address book.

Online meeting and presentation service MightyMeeting debuted two mobile applications that work with its software-as-a-service platform. One, using an iPhone, allows a user to deliver a presentation while using a speakerphone to walk through the slides. The other, demonstrated with an iPad simulator, uses Apple's larger-screen device to manage and deliver web meetings from a library of online presentation materials.

One of the more instantly useful launches at Demo Spring 2010 came during the short-form 90-second AlphaPitches, which give floor time to companies whose products are still in development. ThickButtons demonstrated a replacement keyboard for smartphones that uses predictive techniques to enlarge and highlight the keys the user is most likely to hit next. An Android version is already available, the company said.