Technology innovation was on display in many forms at last week's Demo conference, with 77 companies on the hot seat of public opinion for six minutes each. For IT managers, there was a bevy of new tools for content management, virtualization, and collaboration. And for every frenzied professional: products to help manage time.
CEO Pat Sullivan tries to make Flypaper sticky
Photo courtesy of Demo.com
Designed to eliminate tiresome back-and-forth e-mail and phone calls in search of compatible dates and times, TimeDriver presents a Web-based scheduling program when e-mail recipients respond to a meeting invitation, offering them available appointment times. "A single scheduling process allows hundreds of e-mails to flow into your calendar," says CEO Ed Mallen.
Managing interactions with dozens or hundreds of people also is the goal of LiquidPlanner's new Web-based project management software. Using ranged task-completion estimates--say, three to five weeks--coupled with probabilistic statistical analysis, LiquidPlanner lets managers estimate the likelihood of completing a task, a project, or a portfolio of projects by certain dates.
Demo presenters also showed new products for creating, managing, and distributing content across the Web and to mobile devices.
LiquidTalk's software lets companies push corporate audio and video to BlackBerrys and other mobile devices. And CellSpin's mobile application lets users record audio and video on mobile devices and quickly post the recordings to the Web--from social networking sites to blogs and portals. Just one example of how that might be used: "Say you're in a meeting, and you want to post your notes to your blog," says CellSpin CEO and co-founder Bobby Gurvinder Singh.
Blist introduced software as a service that looks like a spreadsheet and acts like a database. It organizes data in rows and columns, like a spreadsheet, but data is added by filling out a form that can be activated outside the database as a widget. Once the form is filled out with a predefined set of data, a person can drag it to an open Blist database and by clicking a button, the data's added.
The data is searchable using the Lens Builder tool, which prompts a user to construct a SQL query, filling in blanks labeled "Criteria" and "Sector" without using the SQL data access language. The query is constructed in the background and run against the underlying database to pull together related data, says Blist founder and CEO Kevin Merritt. Blist is a more general-purpose version of such online to-do lists as Ta-da List or Remember The Milk, with relational database data-handling characteristics added.
CEO Perry Wu's BitGravity rides the video wave
Flypaper Studio--a relaunch of Interactive Alchemy--unveiled software for building multimedia online presentations. Interactive Alchemy was founded in 2003 to create custom online training programs for businesses, and it's now applying that experience to online presentations.
Flypaper Studio's library of models can be used to create multimedia presentations that will be viewed on the Web. The company refers to these PowerPoint-like presentations as "stories," and it expects marketing people to latch on to the idea. Starbucks is an early adopter. Flypaper Studio hopes to establish a community of users who create and share their own models, and who post their rich media presentations on its site.
Sharing and managing many different types of content is the concept behind Joggle, a new application from Fabrik. Providing "aggregation through virtualization," Joggle lets users view and access content--documents, photos, video--in one place regardless of where the files are stored. "We're providing a central location where you can see all your stuff, while leaving it where you want to," says Mike Williams, Fabrik's senior VP and general manager.
Collaboration products shared the Demo stage, too. Chalex's BpDam software lets multiple people view and edit documents, spreadsheets, Web pages, and other files from remote sites. Huddle links business workspaces with social communities. CatalystWeb introduced a Web-based productivity environment for small businesses. And KonoLive, from 2Win Solutions, serves as an overlay for desktop applications such as Word and Excel, with a toolbar for sharing, editing, and commenting on files.
It's also clear that businesses of all kinds are increasingly part of the YouTube generation. New products at Demo ranged from those geared for mobile devices, such as those from CellSpin and LiquidTalk, to video infrastructure and management tools.
Two-year-old BitGravity launched BG LiveBroadcast, a service for streaming high-quality video in real time via Web browsers. CEO Perry Wu says the service can scale from thousands of users to millions. The company positions it as a broadcast TV-quality service that's affordable to small businesses, a case that would've been more convincing if it listed pricing.
Two startups, TubeMogul and Visible Measures, demonstrated technology for measuring and tracking video content use. TubeMogul's Premium Products services--comprising analytics, demographic reporting, and aggregate viewership information--give advertisers, marketing professionals, and video publishers new performance tracking capabilities, such as tracking viewership from multiple video sites.
CEO Dave Peak of LiquidTalk pictures video on a BlackBerry
Visible Measures gauges the behavior of video audiences on the Web. By integrating its technology with Flash players, the company can track the number of times a video clip has been viewed, accumulated viewing time, and where the video has been distributed on the Web. Visible Measures just landed $13.5 million in Series B funding and acquired Vidmeter, an Internet video distribution and analytics company that specializes in user-generated content.
Wu of BitGravity says businesses are almost ready for a big video push. "2009 will really be the year of video for enterprises," he predicts.
The few virtualization pitches at Demo show how the technology's going to do a lot more than consolidate data center servers. Two-year-old StackSafe showed how its first product, Test Center, captures snapshots of the IT production environment, stores them, and then assembles virtualized production environments in which to test software changes. Test-driving changes in a virtual production environment lets IT staffs find glitches before they cause an outage in the real production environment. The $50,000-per-year Test Center comes a week after announcement of a similar product, Stage Manager, by market leader VMware.
Citrix Systems is hardly a startup, but it edged into the Demo event to tout XenDesktop, a product of its $500 million acquisition of a startup, XenSource. XenDesktop generates Xen virtual machines on a central server, provisions them as Windows desktops, and either supplies services to the PC from that central server or streams the entire Windows desktop to the PC.
-- With Charles Babcock and John Foley