Demo08 kicked off with high-energy music and a low-energy dance number from producer Chris Shipley and her stage crew. (Thankfully, Shipley made reference to “So you think you can dance,” so we don’t have to.)
A reported 600 attendees have packed the ballroom at Palm Desert’s Desert Springs Hotel. This year’s theme is “realign” – as in, realigning expectations, services, product categories, and relationships (or at least that's my takeaway). I'll realign expectations - I said I wasn't going to live blog, but here's a stream of consciousness on the pitches, and I'll offer more filtering tomorrow.
. Timetrade Systems. TimeDriver is positioned as a sales tool, allowing the customer to schedule themselves against the salesperson’s Google or Outlook calendar. Not the strongest product to open with.
. Iterasi. “We’re the other side of search – the saving and sharing of Web pages,” said CEO Pete Grillo. Iterasi bookmarks Web pages exactly as they look – even if it took several steps to load all of the information on the page. Not sure how often this is necessary – nor why Mozilla Foundation wouldn’t just add it as a feature for Firefox. Iterasi also works like the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine,” “notarizing” pages, saving earlier versions and allowing for scheduled downloads of updated versions.
. LiquidPlanner. “We allow you to capture and manage uncertainty,” said CEO Charles Seybold. LiquidPlanner allows project members to define tasks with a range of delivery dates – essentially baking in their uncertainty about delivery dates. This is a far more realistic way to manage projects, allowing members to define more realistic ranges for their tasks. However, the product currently lacks goal-seeking around solutions: For example, in their demo, they had to manually identify and move a low-priority – and slipping – project to a later time to remove risk, but it would have been great to have the product suggest where risk existed, and where it could be mitigated.
. Citiport is attempting to be a destination site for city-focused travel, with content created mostly by travelers and locals. But this is a crowded space, with everyone from Wikitravel to TripAdvisor already amassing large amounts of information. The community features are good, but they don't seem to lead to the kind of quality on, say, TripAdvisor or Zagat's.
. Leapfrog. Ozzie & Matt. The Tag pen has an infrared camera to detect special ink in Leapfrog books, and automatically reads the text, makes noises for certain pictures, etc. The pen stores the child’s reading activity, lets parents view their “learning path” online, seeing what the child “should” be learning next. (We can discuss whether that's something a parent "should" want to do or not.) But I learned something from the demo: “When you add ‘e’ to the end of a word, it makes the vowel stand up and say its name!”
. Fabrik is a young Web storage and solutions company that already has $250 million annualized revenue, according to CEO Mike Cordano. Their Joggle allows customers to manage all of their rich media files, whether they’re on a local drive, or on Web hosted services like Flickr. Also allows users to share their music, images and video through blogs, Web pages and social networking sites. It remains to be seen if images sitting on your hard drive can be viewed by others, or if a copy is uploaded, but it's a nice interface.
. Speaklike. CEO Sandy Cohen says his company “changes the way people communicate and work across languages,” translating real-time chat. His demo showed simultaneous English, Spanish, and Mandarin translations, and he claimed that the quality of translation increases as it “learns” from particular “speakers.”
. STEP Labs makes technology that improves the quality of audio, cancelling ambient noise under extreme conditions. The demo showed a real-time video link from a car out in the parking lot. With Santana blaring “Evil Ways” from the radio, a passenger talking on a phone, and the driver talking into the company’s STEPware Auto noise-cancelling microphone: the transmission was a little muddy, but no ambient noise came through. The playback of an onstage demo – after loud music and audience noise-generation – didn’t go quite as well, but under reasonably challenging conditions, the technology looks like it could significantly improve the quality of speakerphone calls, if nothing else.
. Notchup.com. “The best people are people who already have jobs,” said CEO Jim Ambras. Since I started professional life as a career counselor, I can strongly disagree with that. But it’s an interesting premise: You’re happily working at your current job, but you probably don’t mind hearing from recruiters – if they’ll pay you. Notchup lets you set a base price, and block out specific domains so your employer can’t find you. (Riiiight.) The service does block the candidate’s name, and it potentially saves up to 30% of the candidate’s first year’s salary, the typical recruiter’s fee – and the market they’re attempting to disintermediate. Ambras reported that they signed up 50,000 members in the past 8 days – on a password-protected beta site.
. Education.com, “the WebMD of education,” according to the company. Its new SchoolFinder is a service designed to help parents find public, private and charter schools. But their demo spent five minutes on the general Education.com site, and one minute on SchoolFinder.
. 800Genie. Makes it easy to retrieve email and other information through voice recognition on your phone. I like “teleblogging,” but I'm still not sure what it is.
. Toktumi offers a very easy-to-use Web-based PBX system. For $12.95 per month, plus two cents a minute, you get a Web-based phone management system. Conference calls can be set up in real time for up to 20 people. Users can also transfer callers to a voice mail system that can be dynamically configured. Users can test out the service before buying. It looks like a very intriguing service, but the company needs to rethink its tagline: “Toktumi: I’m EASY.”
. Avistar. “Essentially, we provide video for unified communications,” said CEO Simon Moss. Avistar is experienced at moving large amounts of data efficiently across the Internet. By managing the bandwidth between endpoints, the company offers very high quality PC-based video calls. The software interface could use some updating – check out Ooovoo.com for an example of a cool interface – but it’s hard to argue with the performance.
. Santrum Networks. I’m sorry to say that it was difficult to understand their accents, but apparently BloCafe is a next-generation blogging tool that adds rich media, hosted forums, and live conversation. The company believes it fits into the collaboration and promotion markets, helping groups interact more effectively. Available in March.
. Movial. CEO Jari Ala-Ruana said, “Social Communicator makes social media really social.” Though it’s an impressive interface, I didn’t get it, so I’ll have to go look at the booth.
. Ribbit. “We’re the Silicon Valley phone company,” said co-founder Crick Waters. You can answer your phone “anywhere” – including your PC and Web sites. “No downloads, no installs – just a Web page.” Because it does text recognition, it makes your voice messages searchable. And calls can be returned from the PC, Skype, or Googletalk, presenting the user’s cellphone number. The software will also pull in “opensocial” feeds for the user while you’re talking to them. Ribbit claims thousands of developers who’ve used their API to create new Web phones and other utilities; one created a beautiful iPhone interface. The company didn’t mention pricing, but it looks like a very useful service.
. LegiTime Technologies. LegiText is designed to simplify messaging and information management on smart phones. Didn’t grab me.
. Vidyo. The company showed HD-quality video over cable modems, using a “videoconferencing router” that dynamically adapts to the available bandwidth and networking hiccups. The result: It looks even better than Avistar’s (though they could use help on interface design as well). They believe their annual subscription model will reduce the capex costs of high-end videoconferencing systems. Just announced that Cisco has licensed their technology.