COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | PHIL BAKER

Demo unveils new products

Demo (www.demo.com), held earlier this month in Scottsdale, Ariz., allows mostly upstart technology companies to have the opportunity to tell an audience of journalists, analysts, investors and competitors about their new products in just a few minutes. This year's conference had 67 companies presenting to an audience of more than 600. The companies are selected by Chris Shipley, Demo's organizer, from several hundred submissions.

Among the products were those designed to improve computer searches, a rival to Microsoft Office, software to let you share your photos with others and a pocket-sized computer. Here are some of those I found of interest:

Vulcan (www.vulcan.com), part of Paul Allen's empire, showed a pocket computer called FlipStart. Looking like a shrunken notebook the size of a small paperback book, it weighs under a pound yet is a full XP computer. Its major limitation is a small keyboard that's too large for thumb-typing and too small for real typing. Vulcan says it will be available in Q4 for $1,500 to $2,000. Many have dreamed of a product like this, but it will need to get under $1,000 to be a real success.

If the FlipStart is still too big, Key-Computing (www.key-computing.com) of Israel is offering a way to turn your computer into a key fob. They showed a thumb drive with a microprocessor and software. Once set up, you can plug it into another computer and that computer becomes a replica of your own for doing e-mail, accessing important documents and managing your calendar. When attached to a networked computer, it synchronizes with the Exchange Server Remove the drive and you remove all of your personal information and files from that computer. This product is similar to Migo (www.4migo.com) introduced last fall. Each are about $200.

Evermore Software (www.evermoresw.com), the first Chinese company to present at Demo, introduced their Evermore Integrated Office 2004, a replacement for Microsoft Office. Rather than a group of individual programs, EIOffice is an integrated program consisting of a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software, all compatible with Microsoft Office. The integration allows data to be linked throughout EIOffice, to have one interface and toolbar for the entire product, and to be saved as a single file. It runs in Java, which makes it easy to move to different platforms. EIOffice is available now for Windows and Linux, and promised soon for Mac. The product lists for $99 per year on a subscription basis. Ironically, their major competition in China will be the illegal copies of Microsoft Office available for a few dollars. Most of the audience was rooting for this little startup to succeed with this alternative to a Microsoft product.

Homestead Technologies Inc. of San Mateo showed PhotoSite To Go (www.photosite.com), a subscription service that enables anyone to construct a Web site for their photos that can then be visited by friends and family. This eliminates the need to e-mail large photo files. You just send an e-mail with an attachment to your site and it will be automatically added. So now it's only seconds between snapping an image on your mobile phone and displaying it on the Web! Subscription is $4.99/mo or $49.99 per year.

Groxis Inc. (www.groxis.com) of Sausalito showed its Grokker2 software, which visually displays searches using spheres of different sizes and colors. For example, when I did a search on "San Diego," I got a series of spheres labeled as California, City, County, Events, Hotels, Guide, etc. Clicking on the "Guide" sphere, the graphic zoomed in to show additional spheres labeled as Dining Guide, City Guide, Travel Guide, Hotel Guide and a few others. Clicking again on my choice took me to a variety of relevant Web sites. This technology is also being applied to visualizing financial spreadsheets to see the data more easily than examining it as a list of words. Very cool. The software costs $49, and a free demo is available from their Web site.

Roxio (www.roxio.com) introduced a suite of products under a single interface that can do just about anything associated with media creation, CDs, DVDs and photos. It combines their Easy CD & DVD Creator, PhotoSuite, VideoWave, and recently acquired Napster. Of particular interest is its module for editing videos that's one of the easiest to use for PCs. It's a good buy at $79.

It was evident from the Demo that creativity is alive and well and there is never an end to new ideas. Some of these products will make it, and some will be gone in a year. And talking amongst the audience, few have a clue as to which are which. That's what makes this so interesting. DEMOmobile, which showcases new products for the mobile user, will be held Sept. 8-10 in La Jolla.


Baker has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others. He is the holder of 30 patents and was named San Diego's Ernst & Young Consumer Products Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. He can be reached at phil.baker@sddt.com.

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